Who is your celebrity look-alike?

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Shannon & Luke

Who is your celebrity look-alike? Mine is David Sedaris.

Me in high school

Me in high school

When I was in high school, my friends flattered me into thinking that I sort of looked like Shannon Dougherty. Shannon who? Yes, yes, there was a popular TV show back when people still watched TV and when dinosaurs roamed the earth called 90210. Still never heard of her? I think maybe she was a one hit wonder. Anyway, here is a photo of her snuggled up with Luke Perry.

I did kind of look like her when I smiled, but in this picture, my brother and I look less like Shannon and Luke and more like a couple of grumpy Chinese skiers posing for “American Gothic”. My sweet brother and Luke Perry both died way too young, so I don’t really like this comparison anyway.

Later, I was compared to Elaine from Seinfeld (by my brother, mainly because he said I danced like Elaine). So true! I can really boogie when I want to. The dancing episode (Little Kicks) is hilarious and if you haven’t seen it recently, it is worth a re-watch.

My brother & me

My brother & me

American Gothic

American Gothic

Now, I like to think that David Sedaris is my long lost twin. We have so much in common. He is very short and so am I. We both love weird, impractical fashion. We both are obsessed with small animals. We both adore our families. And, we both love to clean. Hmmm. A short person who wears funny clothes, loves animals and family, and loves to clean. Now that I think about it I sound more like a tidy toddler than David Sedaris. I’m in England now, and I know he lives here, so I’m dreaming that I’ll bump into him. Just to say hi! And so I can tell him how much I admire his work. Several years ago, I ran into George R.R. Martin (author of Game of Thrones) in the parking lot of our local pizza parlor and I chatted with him for a minute, so I think it’s possible that I might really see Davis Sedaris. If you haven’t read David Sedaris’s stuff, you definitely should. He will crack you up. He is the master of being really funny without ever being mean.

Do you have a celebrity look-alike? Or perhaps a celebrity soul mate? Who is it?

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason. If you want to Comment as a Guest, your name is the only required field. Type in your name and your comment, and then click “Comment as Guest” and thank you for engaging!


Travel Hacks

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I have several friends (plus my husband) who are renewable energy lawyers. I always ask them what we can do as individuals to help combat climate change (always hoping for a different answer). This recent article in the Washington Post reiterates exactly what they’ve all been telling me, which is that “Staying home, in fact, is the essence of making a big difference in a big hurry. That’s because nothing that we do pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than air travel. Cancel a couple long flights, and you can halve your carbon footprint. Schedule a couple, and you can double or triple it.”

I’m very excited because I’m heading to Ireland and England in a few days. I’ve been looking forward to this trip, which we’ve been planning for my husband’s 50th birthday. But, after this trip we are going to seriously reconsider our future travel plans for the sake of our planet. I think we’ll try to stay put for awhile. Hang out at home with Coconut, our English Bulldog. Actually that sounds pretty nice.

So, for Mother Earth’s sake, I strongly discourage you from air travel. However, I do have a short list of things that make long trips more pleasant, if you must fly.

If your airport has a spa and you have a long layover, get a facial or massage. Yes, you’ll pay more, but you’ll feel better. If your airport doesn’t have a spa, you don’t have much time, or you are too cheap to get a massage, use the pay by the minute massage chairs.

If you have access to an airport lounge, use it. For the uninitiated, an airport lounge is a facility that offers comforts beyond those afforded in the airport terminal itself, such as more comfortable seating, quieter environments, free WiFi, free drinks (booze! good coffee!), healthy snacks, and showers. It may seem weird to use the showers, but once my daughters and I had a 10 hour layover and it was great to take showers in the Delta lounge. Plus, they provided towels and toiletries.

Walk as much as possible. Don’t take the escalator or the moving sidewalk. And don’t board right away. No one is going to take your seat, so there is no reason to hurry.

Bring an empty reusable water bottle with you. You can fill it up at a water fountain once you are inside the terminal. I like the Hydro Flasks because they keep the water cold and they come in cute colors (check out the limited edition Shave Ice collection). That way you don’t have to buy a plastic water bottle in the airport and you can decline all of the plastic cups they give you on the flight. More environmental and healthier to bring your own water bottle.

Noise cancelling Bose headphones. These things are expensive, but they are great.

Compression socks. I got some for myself and everyone in my family. The ones from VIM & VIGR are cute and apparently help prevent the formation of blood clots in the lower legs while flying. My kids won’t wear them (because they still have a sense of style and probably don’t have to worry about deep vein thrombosis yet) but I love them.

Don’t go crazy in the duty free shop just because you are bored. On a recent trip, I decided to spray a healthy amount of Ralph Lauren men’s Polo cologne on myself in duty free. This seemed like a great idea in the moment. Nostalgia in a beautiful dark green bottle. My poor seat mate probably spent the whole trip wondering why I smelled like a frat boy from the ‘80s.

So, please don’t travel any more than absolutely necessary. And, please share your travel hacks so if we do have to travel, we’ll do it in style. Or at least in comfort.

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason. If you want to Comment as a Guest, your name is the only required field. Type in your name and your comment, and then click “Comment as Guest” and thank you for engaging!

The Sicilian

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The other day I ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time. He asked “are you still married to the Sicilian?” Why yes, yes I am! In fact, we just celebrated our 26th anniversary the other day.

The older I get, the more I appreciate my relationships. I’m so grateful for the Sicilian, our kids, my parents, and my dogs. I’ve got great in-laws (more Sicilians). And, I appreciate my friends, new and old.

I love meeting new people, especially my kids’ friends. I think everyone has an age that they like best. Some people, like my husband and my dad, are great with babies.

Everyone loves toddlers. Because toddlers are adorable.

Not sure who likes middle schoolers.

Me, I like teenagers. Not sure why, other than that they are great. Actually I do know why. Teenagers are so cool but still so sweet. Teenagers are always welcome in my home.

Now that my daughters are both in college, I’m meeting some amazing young adults. Computer scientists, future teachers, artists, and environmentalists. Interesting, smart, young people who are going to save our planet. I can’t wait to see the beautiful future that they build.

I also madly cherish my old friends. My oldest friend and his gorgeous daughter are here this weekend to celebrate his mom’s 80th birthday. He has known me since I was born, so I can truly say I have loved him my whole life. Almost half of a century.

We don’t have that much in common. He’s a 6’2” tall man with a PhD in economics. I’m a 5’0” woman with a JD and a dog blog. His kids are tall, blond Scandinavians. Mine are Sicilian lovelies, who look like marzipan tastes and orange blossoms smell.

Our differences don’t matter though. My friend and I both love stupid 80s music (we are big Bryan Adams and John Cougar Mellencamp fans). We like Oreo cookies with milk. We’ve travelled the world together. When we travel, he has to pay for everything and make all of the plans, and in return, I let him.

Friends are important. Old and new. Even if you only get to see them on social media or every so often in person. I hope you treasure your friends and that you tell them so. It’s important.

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason. If you want to Comment as a Guest, your name is the only required field. Type in your name and your comment, and then click “Comment as Guest” and thank you for engaging!

Xiao Long Bao

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Xiao Long Bao (XLB) are steamed soup dumplings from Shanghai. Inside the dumpling are little cubes of gelatinized broth. When you steam the dumpling, the gelatin melts into a delicious pocket of broth. 

Eating XLB is a bit of an art form. You need both a soup spoon and chopsticks to properly eat XLB. You’ll want to put a mixture of dark vinegar, a tiny bit of ginger if you like ginger, and soy sauce in your soup spoon. In our cooking class at The Hutong, we also added sesame oil and sugar and a bit of chili paste.

Then, take a XLB off the steamer and add it to your soup spoon. Nibble a little hole in the top of the XLB so that some of the steam can escape and some of the vinegar mixture can enter the XLB. Then, slide the whole XLB and the vinegar mixture into your mouth. Some people compare it to eating an oyster shooter. Yum.

XLB are traditionally prepared in a small bamboo or stainless steel steaming basket. XLB are not easy or quick to make, but they are worth it because they are delicious. I consider this an advanced recipe. This website has some good pictures that show you how to pleat the dumplings, which is the hardest part. If you go to Din Tai Fung, the excellent XLB chain restaurant, you can see the XLB being made because they have an open kitchen. Note that Din Tai Fung doesn’t take reservations and I’ve always had to wait, but that’s okay because the chefs make the XLB in a kitchen with a window near the entrance, so you can study how they pleat the dumplings while you wait.

Here’s the recipe (see below). Good luck and happy cooking!

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason. If you want to Comment as a Guest, your name is the only required field. Type in your name and your comment, and then click “Comment as Guest” and thank you for engaging!

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The Middle Kingdom

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In the west, we call this East Asian country “China.” Apparently the word "China" has Persian or possibly Sanskrit origins and was first used by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century.

The Chinese have many names for China, but I’m pretty sure the official name is Zhōnghuá, which means Middle Kingdom. Since I am a total Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones nerd, this name appeals to me.

When I get home, I’m strongly considering telling people that “I was visiting the Middle Kingdom,” if they ask where I’ve been. Too pretentious?

We hiked the Mùtiányù section of the Great Wall of China yesterday. According to the Apple Watch, we got 15,000 steps - all vertical.

This is my second trip to Mùtiányù. You can walk or you can take a toboggan, cable car, or chairlift down. I decided to take the chairlift down this time because there was a team of very energetic guys (soccer players, probably, based on their amazing hair) on the toboggans, and they were going dangerously fast. My kids would have enjoyed this, but I was happy to watch from above.

We’ve also visited the Bādálǐng section of the wall in years past. Both Mùtiányù and Bādálǐng are great, but if you are traveling with kids, I would recommend Mùtiányù. It sounds sort of cheesy because of the toboggans, but it’s actually amazing.

Anyway, you simply must visit the Middle Kingdom, and if you go, please send pics from the Great Wall!

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason.

Dim Sum

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Dim sum is a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on a small plate with tea. They are kind of like tapas. Dim sum is literally translated to mean “touch the heart” and the associated Cantonese phrase yum cha means “to drink tea.”

I attended a Chinese cooking class at a cooking school called The Hutong here in Beijing a few days ago. I’ve been to this cooking school before in years past, and I highly recommend it. The teacher that I like the best is named Yao. I’m going to her xiao long bao (XLB) class next week.

XLB are soup dumplings. You eat them with a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. Yum. You may have heard of Din Tai Fung, which is one of my favorite restaurants. They are famous for XLB and they have restaurants all over the world. I’ve been to the one in Beijing several times, and the one near Palo Alto. I’m pretty sure they have a Michelin star, which is amazing because Din Tai Fung is a chain restaurant often located in high-end malls. I’ll share the XLB recipe after my class, if it is any good.

Here is the recipe and a photo of the lovely shrimp dumplings that we made at the dim sum class. They were much easier to make than you would think and they were delicious. If you try them, I hope you like them!

Warmly,

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Empty Nest Obsessed

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason.

Are you rich?

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When I was in my 20s, I thought I was rich if I could go to the grocery store and buy everything I needed without worrying about whether I had enough money to cover it when I got to the checkout counter. If I didn’t have to do the math every time I put an item in my cart, I felt so rich.

When I was in my 30s, I felt rich if I could buy organic food at the grocery store, and not cringe. Six dollars for eggs? When the “regular eggs” are only two dollars? No problem.

A friend told me that she felt rich when she could afford to buy flowers for herself whenever she wanted, and she always had a tuberose or gardenia scenting her home. I love this idea, but somehow that still feels overindulgent to me. Or perhaps I really just want other people to buy them for me.

Now that I’m in my late 40s, I feel rich because I have a wonderful family, friends, and two sweet dogs. And also because I can get a massage whenever my muscles ache. Well, maybe not every time they ache, because that would be every day and I’m not that rich.

I’m in Beijing now, and Chinese medicinal massages are reasonably priced but they are NOT relaxing. In fact, it is sort of excruciating. You wear flannel pajamas that open in the back, and you are in a room with other people. No new age music, no aromatherapy. In fact, no oils at all. They put a sheet over you for privacy, so they don’t actually touch your skin. The massage therapists often chat with each other or watch TV while they are doing the massage, so it has a very different ambiance than in America. Even the smallest massage therapist seems to have the strength of an army. They knead you like a lump of dough. No mercy if you are flinching or if you are ticklish. They just keep kneading. The legs are the worst. However, the last 15 minutes seems to be reserved for the head. They give you the most amazing scalp massage. It is invigorating and administered with absolutely no concern for your hair-do. After the head massage, they offer to clean your ears with what looks like a long metal probe, but I think might be an ear candle. I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet. But I am interested. I’ll let you know if I try it.

A loud alarm goes off to let you know when your hour is up. When they are done, they give you some green tea and some fruit (so far I’ve been offered cherry tomatoes, honeydew, and watermelon). You sit there rejuvenated, with your wild hair, munching on tomatoes, feeling like a million bucks. In my book these days, that’s rich! I would love to know what makes you feel rich.

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed 🐾

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason.



Dog-friendly hotels?

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My husband and I recently took a cross-country road trip. We brought our English Bulldog, Coconut. She was a lovely traveling companion. The downside to traveling with a dog is that if you aren’t willing to leave them in the car alone, which I am not, you end up eating a lot of fast food. I’m a bit of a food snob, so this was not great for me, however, I discovered two amazing treats. Taco Bell sells Cinnabon Delights . They are only $1 for two. They are like bite-sized malasadas. Little cream filled donuts. Yum. Also, Arby’s has a delicious greek gyro. For fast food, it is surprisingly delicious. We also discovered a website that gives the low-down on dog-friendly hotels. They had great recommendations for small towns and big cities all across America. They give you the pet policy, whether there is a pet fee, and a description of the hotel. The best and the worst pet-friendly hotel we stayed at was the La Quinta Inn. The first one we stayed at was clean and comfortable. We had such a great experience, that we didn’t check Bring Fido. Instead, we just rolled into the next La Quinta Inn. It was super sketchy and dirty. We couldn’t leave fast enough! Next time, we’ll read the reviews on each dog-friendly hotel before checking in. If you take a road trip with your dog, I hope you have fun!

Warmly,

Empty Nest Obsessed

Disclaimer: I love to try new products. I’m particularly interested in eco-friendly household cleaning products and I’m obsessed with anti-aging skin and hair care products. If I find something that works for me, I’ll let you know! Please note that I am not being paid (yet!) for any of my product recommendations. It that changes, I’ll certainly let you know.

Comments Policy: Empty Nest Obsessed is a lifestyle blog meant to encourage, inspire, and support you as you navigate your own empty nest. In order to keep the tone positive, I reserve the right to moderate, edit, or delete any comments on Empty Nest Obsessed’s website or social media accounts that are negative, abusive, off-topic, or for any other reason.