Thursday, October 23, 2008

Beautified


I invested a bit of money in myself this week. After living a close to monastic existence here in my tiny cottage for the past two months, I decided it was time to do a bit of sprucing up for my baby cousins nuptials tomorrow, lest I frighten the wedding revelers with my recent unkempt state.

Spending time at my hair salon is one of my favorite indulgences; what's not to love about being fussed over by an army of hip, young stylists + catching up on gossip with my impossibly chic French hairdresser, Jiji? Um...nothing!, which is why I savor every fluffy, and frivolous second I'm there. What sweet relief to talk about scrunchies vs. barrettes, celebrity train wrecks, and growing out bangs, rather than politics and the economy for a change. One fun hour later, my roots no longer divulging my natural color (or age) I was off to the spa to get my skin thoroughly cleaned. Now, you'd think that by forty-four years old, I'd have skin cleaning 101 nailed, but truth be told, I was beginning to feel like there was not one clear pore left on my entire face. So, for the next hour, I did my best to relax in a dimly lit room, while a spa technician steamed, scrubbed, and squeezed an entire summer's worth of gunk from my skin; I swear I lost two pounds from my face yesterday.

And finally, there was the bikini wax. Somehow--after spending all of my adult life perfectly happy going...errr, ummm...au natural--I got talked dared bullied into getting one by my good friend, Cindy. Cindy couldn't believe it when I told her I had never experienced the joys of waxing, so one warm afternoon, she handed me two Advil, spun me around, marched me right out of her store, and pointed me in the direction of the nail salon directly across the street, where I stuttered 'bikini wax' to the person at the register, and suddenly found myself in more contorted positions than a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. The pain--and humiliation--of those 30 minutes was so great that I cursed Cindy for months, and swore to myself that I would never put myself through that anguish again. And yet, there I was again, just the other day--in a cold sweat--bracing myself for the first rip, the horror of being asked to "flip over" and worst of all--the tweezers.

But by some miracle I survived my second bikini wax, and when I arrived home, I poured myself a very large glass of red wine as a reward. Then, realizing the wedding was only two days away, I poured out the wine, brushed my teeth, broke out the Crest White Strips, and worked on getting my teeth back to a shade that could be called white.

Beauty I was reminded, is utterly exhausting; I can't wait to get back to work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm Back


I was leisurely heading up Park Avenue - slash - risking my life in the back of an uninsured pedicab this past Friday night, when it suddenly dawned on me--I'm happy. And it wasn't just the giddy side-effects of the two glasses of champagne I enjoyed at The Oyster Bar with my cousin, Bev, or the fact that our final destination was a bachelorette party at Tao, that had me euphoric. Instead, I had this overwhelming realization at 7:45 pm, right smack dab in the center of Manhattan, with taxi's, and limo's, and crazy New York drivers speeding by just inches away from our feeble cycle rickshaw, that after months of emotional and physical wear and tear, after slogging through each day exhausted beyond words, I was--am--finally and happily, feeling comfortable in my own skin again. All I could do at that moment was close my eyes, smile inwardly, and send up a silent prayer of thanks to the heavens, and to my grandmother, who I know is looking out for me from above, each and every second of the day.

My laughter is back, as is my sense of humor. When I catch sight of myself in the mirror, I no longer look like I am auditioning as an extra for a George A. Romero film. And, while most women would choose to commit Hari Kari over their scale revealing a five pound increase, after losing twenty-two pounds this past year, I am relieved that I can now pinch an inch; I am healthy once again.

This tiny cottage by the river has done me good, as have the people I've chosen to include in my circle. We all have the ability to make our own life choices in this world, and sometimes we have to make difficult ones in order to get to a better place for ourselves. But in the end, I firmly believe that through suffering and pain, comes strength and power.

This past Friday night, on a $20 white-knuckled pedicab ride through the streets of Gotham, I suddenly woke up out of my Snow White stupor, and remembered what it felt like to be me. But not just ordinary, old me, but rather a stronger, more powerful version of my old self; a new, and improved Suzanne Brown. And, in that Hollywood-scripted moment, I welcomed this fiercer Suzanne into my life, with a big hug, an open heart, and the promise of a bright future.

I am back.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Us, Gift Wrapped


I can't seem to find sleep tonight. My mind has been dancing with memories, and as a result, I've spent the past hour and a half tossing around my bed, unable to settle down. So, here I am, at 11pm--with a glass of wine, and my laptop--hoping to empty my head of these images that have been buzzing around my brain, like flies at a summer picnic.

As I mentioned in my last posting, my parents celebrated their golden anniversary last week, so yesterday, our family and friends gathered to toast this milestone at an anniversary brunch. My folks--like most parents--have pretty much everything they need in this world; they've lived long enough to have accumulated plenty of "stuff", and they've worked hard enough to have traveled around the world and back again. So, when it came time to choose the right gift for them, my brothers and I definitely had our work cut out for us. We immediately crossed anything that needed to be giftwrapped off our list, as the three of us are 100% in agreement that the best things in life are definitely not things. That left us with travel. But when you have parents who have traveled everywhere together for the past fifty years--from Maine to Morocco--well, the pickin's get sort of slim (not to mention our wallets). And then--after thirty-three emails and several very businesslike conference calls--it suddenly dawned on us that the best gift we could give our parents was...us.

So, yesterday, we gifted our parents with us for an entire week. And we even threw in their grandkids, as well. And, hopefully my aunt and uncle and a few cousins will join in, too, so it can really feel like old times. You see, as kids we spent our summers down the Jersey Shore. It was a big, family event, and those special summers hold more memories than I can ever list here (so many in fact, that I had to write a book about it!). There was the boardwalk and the fireworks, early morning crabbing excursions and fishing for bluefish. There were trips to the mini golf, and to the Dairy Queen, kite flying and frisbee throwing. We showered outdoors, and slept in sandy beds, and each and every second of it was happy and joyous and carefree.

It is our hope that we can once again experience that sweet and carefree summer feeling with three generations of our family; to remember the times we shared together years ago with my parents, and to pass those memories (and create new ones) with not only my nieces, and my nephews, but to the big, extended family we now have--wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, kids of significant others, "undefinables" (you name it/we've got it).

Next August is ten months away, and already I am sleepless with anticipation. I can't wait to catch blue crabs with my father, to make crab salad with my mother.

It's after midnight, and sleep still eludes me. But that's fine, for tonight I have the delicious memories of summers past, and the dream of a beautiful summer to come to carry me into morning. Well, those, and the can of lump crabmeat I'm about to open, and stuff into the last of summer's ripe, red tomatoes.

Sweet anticipation is about to get a little bit sweeter....


MY MOM'S CRAB SALAD STUFFED TOMATOES
(from my book, Summer: A User's Guide)
6 large ripe tomatoes (avocado halves can be used as well)
3 cups crabmeat
1 1/2 cups diced celery
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons mayonnaise (or more, to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Lettuce leaves

Cut the top off of each tomato, then carefully scoop out the center, leaving a thick shell.
In a mixing bowl, combine crabmeat, celery, salt, pepper, lemon juice and mayonnaise. Fill tomatoes with crab salad. Place stuffed tomatoes on a bed of lettuce before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Politics + Happy Marriages


Everywhere I turn as of late, conversations seem to be focused on the formidable financial woes this country is now facing. Those troubles, combined with the contentious political race for the White House, have made it somewhat difficult to have a peaceful + civilized meal with a diverse group of friends, without it turning into a passionate, heated debate, where I actually ponder over my molten lava cake, whether I might need to drop my dessert fork to break up a middle-aged suburban melee. I--having been through enough this year already--am doing my very best to stay neutral, peaceful + calm, as there is no use wringing my hands over "stuff" that is out of my control. Instead, I am trying to focus on the joyous things that are going on in the world--and especially in my life--and am pleased to report that there are still plenty of happy and positive things to celebrate.

With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, and the average union lasting only seven years, it's refreshing when you catch wind of a marriage that somehow beats those grim odds. Today, my parents--Barbara and John--have been married for fifty years. That number actually makes my jaw drop, as I can barely find it in myself to spend fifty minutes with someone, much less fifty years, but somehow these two people have made it work, and oh, how I wish I knew the secret of their success.

It would be so easy if there was an illustrated manual on how to make a marriage last, but alas, one does not exist. Instead, I like to believe that the secret to my parents long union is simply...tolerance. My theory is that both realize that neither of them are perfect--that they have different opinions, and tastes, and ideologies, and they respect those differences without tension, hostility, or judgment. What I've witnessed over my forty-four years is two people learning to live, and let live; I can come up with no other secret sauce to this statistic-defying, long, healthy marriage.

In my ideal world, we would all follow this peaceful path of tolerance, where opinions could be spoken freely, without worry, and where molten lava cake could be leisurely consumed without the fear of fisticuffs breaking out over after-dinner espresso. But for now, I'll simply have to settle for my parents--not my dining companions--for inspiration.

Upcoming Halloween TV Spot: A Ghostly Gala


My very favorite holiday--Halloween--is right around the corner, and to celebrate, I'll be spending the next three weeks posting ideas for my upcoming spot on the News Channel 8 (WTNH) Good Morning Connecticut Weekend show. This time around, I'll be offering crafts, party ideas and recipes for A Ghostly Gala, guaranteed to spook even the most unflappable Halloween revelers. Earlybird Nutmeggers can tune in on Sunday, October 19th at 7:23 am to watch me live; sleepyheads can tune in later that day to catch it online. And as always, all my crafts, recipes and ideas will be posted on my Crafty Suzanne web log.

Happy Hauntings!
Ghoulzanne