the beach. day three.

monday was the perfect day, sunny and slightly cool. we spent a lot of time on the beach. and once again, my habit of haphazard sunscreen application left be with an embarrassing sunburn.

the kids dug a giant hole. tim sculpted a horseshoe crab. i read my book, the island of sea women. and british vogue.

the kids bored of the beach long before us adults so for a little while we were on our own. it’s the first year they’ve gone off on their own on bikes. the day before, they went to playa bowls but it was closed today.

for as beautiful as it was, i really didn’t take many photos. which makes it hard to remember what we did. i know we decided to grill burgers at home and ran out of propane. and we went to the buckaneer to get ice cream. i found a cool wall outside vineyard vines.

the beach. day two.

our second day at the shore was a rainy one. it should not be allowed to rain when i’m on vacation. i went for a walk when i got up and then made breakfast.

since it wouldn’t be a good beach day we chose to go to the cape may lighthouse. it’s fun to do educational things with teenagers (right?) plus i realized, never have i ever been inside of a lighthouse! it was 199 steps to the top. the website said it was free but it turned out to be $12 per person. we also paid to get flattened pennies with the lighthouse pressed onto them.

after the lighthouse we went down to the beach for a little bit. nora went in the ocean. jack and tim threw a football. i went for a walk.

oh, and we finally stopped at the little road side place that sells key lime pie.

sunday night we decided to go to our favorite mexican place, tortilla flat. we rode our bikes to avalon and found it was permanently closed. our next choice, right around the corner was tonio’s seafood which has a cute little patio. we found a vacant lot! so ultimately we rode all the way back home and made barbecue chicken with baked potatoes and green beans. and key lime pie for dessert!

the beach. day one.

it’s finally here! beach week. my family and i have been staying at the same place, renting the same beach house, since our kids were babies.

it’s in stone harbor, new jersey. a quiet little strip of a town just north of wildwood. there’s no boardwalk and only a few shops and restaurants. every house is only a couple blocks from the beach. it’s pretty perfect.

we arrived on an overcast day and after we unloaded all the car, we headed down to the beach. when we first arrive we go straight to the ocean, no chairs or umbrellas or even towels. we just go and say hello.

we’re here early this year. it’s the first week available to rent the house. the water is not warm. there’s hardly anyone on the beach. the lifeguards are on duty, though.

after checking out the beach, we ride our bikes into town. my sister-in-law told me one of our favorite restaurants, jack’s shack had closed but we had to see for ourselves. there was a new poke bowl place though. after checking out the old and the new shops, we buy a bike pump and head back to the house.

this year i decided to pack a ton of food, to cook and eat healthy. it’s good that i did because so many restaurants aren’t open. some have limited hours because it’s so early in the season and some are just gone. but on our first night we go to fred’s and get burgers. afterwards we ride our bikes around and catch the sunset.

How to Boost Your Mood (when it’s cloudy for days on end)

How to Boost Your Mood (when it’s cloudy for days on end)

I find that the weather can really dictate my mood, and my motivation. If I don’t see blue sky or sun for a while, I feel … not good. So, when that happened recently, I thought, maybe there’s something I can do. I sat down and wrote this list:

FLOWERS
CANDLES
EXERCISE
OUTSIDE
FRIENDS
VITAMINS
MUSIC
PERFUME

Some of these things are obvious and I do them fairly regularly. But some of them surprised me. Like, where did that come from? So I know these things help improve mood, but the thing about a cloudy day is I forget about all the things that can make me feel better.  I need to remember to use them when sluggishness started to settle in. And the sooner the better. Usually taking simple action works well, like taking a walk. And, the more often I do these things, the easier it is to do them.

Since I work from home, which I love, don’t get me wrong, I need to find excuses to get out of the house. I also need to connect with people (other than the three I live with.) Calling a friend is super helpful. Seeing them in person is even better! Making plans with your people is so, so important. I think we all learned how important human connection is after being deprived of it during the pandemic. I can’t make plans with someone, I usually go out by myself. I highly recommend strolling through stores just to look at stuff. Or better yet, an art museum.

Exercise is also essential. Luckily I’m already in a good habit of prioritizing workouts. Usually I do it first thing in the morning. Right now I have a routine that I walk the dog then I go for a longer walk by myself. On some days I do Jazzercise from home. I started doing Jazzercise on-demand at the start of the pandemic and I love it. Don’t judge my old lady workouts! They’re awesome. When the days get shorter and colder and I’m less willing to go outside, I have to really make myself get outside. I know it makes a big difference in my energy level.

I definitely believe in vitamins. I just never remember to take them. Not only are they good for physical health, they are good for mental as well. Studies have shown that calcium, chromium, folate, iron, magnesium, omega-3s, vitamin B, vitamin D, and zinc all help to boost mood. I take Garden of Life but there are obviously many to choose from. 

Adding light, artificial light if it’s cloudy or dark, is supposed to regulate circadian rhythms (like your body’s reaction to light and how it effects energy). I got therapy lamp a few years ago to help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). “Symptoms of SAD include loss of pleasure and energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, and uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods.” – Harvard Health Blog. I’m not sure if the one I have is good or if it’s making a difference but I thought it was worth a try. I find that turning on lights and lighting candles can also make me feel better.

I found it really interesting how many things on my list were sensory. Flowers and candles – sight, music – hearing, perfume (and flowers, and candles if they’re scented) – smell. Enlivening the senses can make us feel more alive. So often people are tempted to numb out to combat depression; bingeing on alcohol, sugar, social media, or TV. Feel less. I never realized that feeling more could be much more effective.

The idea of buying myself flowers is very new to me. So is wearing perfume. I think I got my new love of fragrance from my daughter who is constantly asking for essential oils, candles and perfumes. It feels very indulgent and I’m surprised I haven’t allowed myself to enjoy it more before now. I learned a lot about happiness and self-care from reading The Year of Living Danishly. Lighting candles, drinking hot tea, listening to music, setting a mood. How did I not know about these things?

It’s so easy to get caught up in doing all the things. We feel compelled to clean and work, to take care of others and be “productive.” But if we’re feeling down or tired maybe we need to take a step back, slow down and do something that really creates beauty and wonder. Maybe a cloudy day is just the universe saying, your to-do list just got a lot shorter.

 

Summer (Literary) Escapes

Some books I’ve read lately. I’ve read NINE! books since February. Ah, COVID. These are they. Enjoy.

The News of the World

by Paulette Jiles

This was a really nice read. It’s set in Texas, 5 years after the conclusion of the Civil War. It had me looking up words, timelines and facts as I went along… I realized that historical fiction is probably my favorite genre. This book gave me a little bit of All the Pretty Horses vibes, and of course True Grit. I did guess at the ending but I still enjoyed it all the way through.

The Midnight Library

by Matt Haig

I’ve been telling everyone about this book. And so many people are reading it! It’s not that it’s the best written book, but it has such a great concept — the chance to relive your life by changing the decisions you made. Extremely enjoyable!

Today Will Be Different

by Maria Semple

I chose this book because I enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by the same author. Today is a view into the life of Eleanor, a restless wife and mother who has an overactive mind. Basically me. It felt good to get drawn into her comical malcontent. The end of the book seemed to arrive quickly and I almost felt like I had watched the first episode of a TV show with no more episodes available.

Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

Do I even need to review this book? It’s the sort of classic fiction I was made to read in high school, but I wasn’t. It was referenced in two different books I read this year and I decided I had to read it. If you aren’t used to reading 19th century English Lit, it may be a lot. It was challenging for me, but so worth it. I see why it’s so beloved. The writing is so descriptive, so artful, so unlike anything written nowadays. But I think the best thing about it is getting to know Jane, a woman who has every reason for not being virtuous or true to herself and yet, is.

Such a Fun Age

by Kiley Reid

This was a good in every way. Easy to read, plot twists, authentic characters, good writing that you aren’t even aware of as you’re reading it. The story felt so modern and relatable. I enjoyed the settings – New York, Philadelphia, Allentown – all so familiar. My favorite part: the dialog between the three-year-old girl and her babysitter who just ‘gets’ her.

Beach Read

by Emily Henry

I did, actually, read this at the beach. It was okay. But, I think I’m just not that into romance or YA and this was a little bit of both. It is a book written about authors writing books. Which takes place on a lake. There’s a fair amount of history of family disfunction. Then there’s super steamy luv scenes. All in all a good vaca read.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

This was a weird book. But weird is good. Spoiler: Eleanor is NOT fine. I found it somewhat interesting and reassuring to go on the journey with her, about her past, her trauma and then her slow renewal.

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

This was my cup of tea. Family disfunction, multigenerational saga, mystery… It was thoroughly enjoyable and richly descriptive. I was engaged all the way through. Tried to guess the ending but was still surprised.

The Woman in the Window

by A.J. Finn

I don’t usually read suspense but this was very good. I wanted a good page turner after reading Awakening the Heroes Within. Obviously it pays homage to Rear Window and Noir in general but is it’s own story. Has you guessing who dun it as well as is she imagining it all? Recommend!

My Style: Origin Story

This is an account of how my sense of style came to be. When I wonder why I’m so preoccupied with clothing, I only have to look back on my childhood and it’s pretty clear I how I grew up to be obsessed.

When I was very small, my mother dressed me, as I like to joke, “like a character in a Truffaut film.” She scoured yard sales and the like for simple, understated items she considered cool. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I just wore whatever she picked. I do have one early memory where I insisted on picking out my own outfit and I’m pretty sure it was a checked top and stripped pants and she said it did not look good, that I couldn’t wear two patterns at once. We got into a heated debate about it which ended with her saying, “Well it doesn’t matter what you think you look like, it’s what others think because they’re looking at you!” Other than that, my early childhood was a blissful time filled with shopping together, handmade dresses from Marimekko fabric and the seasonal tradition of taking clothes out of the attic and making me try every single thing on to see if it still fit.

When I was seven, my mom left my dad and went to California. My brother and I stayed in DC with my dad. My stepmother arrived soon after and a new chapter in my fashion life began. Now all my clothes came from Sears and the only criteria for them was they were 1) inexpensive and 2) covered my body. This time from age eight to about 14—those very critical years for a girl—were very bleak but ultimately formative.

Every time I asked my dad for clothes he’d say, “Let’s look at what you have.” I’d have to open my dresser, take out all my jeans and explain why they weren’t perfectly good or try them on.” If it was determined I needed new ones, we’d walk four blocks to Sears and I got to pick out a pair of Toughskins or something similar. It was horrible. And that was the good part. A lot of my clothes were hand me downs from my older brother. My sneakers were Sears brand and everyone knew it. My shoes had 4 stripes on them, not 3 and definitely not a swoosh. I did everything I could to talk my dad into cooler shoes. He said, “We’ll see” which obviously meant “Probably not, or no, never.” But when my sneakers finally got holes in them, (I might have dragged my feet while bike riding), he relented and I got my Nikes.

My stepmother made an effort to intervene in the clothing department, insisting to my father that “Girls need pretty things.” She was an accomplished seamstress and would occasionally let me pick out patterns and fabric and then she would sew things for me. One item that I remember distinctly was a full length wrap skirt made out of baby blue satin. One Christmas she bought me a book of Japanese fashion and I fell in love with Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. I know, right?

It wasn’t until I had my first jobs, at Subway, then Baskin-Robbins, that I had the money and the power to buy what I wanted. I feel like I bought a pair of Jordache jeans with my own money. I distinctly remember trying them on and thinking I looked amazing. I don’t have any photos of me in them so maybe I just imagined it. I didn’t have much to spend in high school so I mostly shopped at thrift stores. Or wore my friend’s clothes. In these days my peers were wearing Polo and Izod shirts, Tretorns and Bass shoes. Some of them were Goth, but mostly just very plain and somewhat anti-fashion. We dubbed our style “the no-style style.”


Brooklyn, 2003.

College and the years after are one long, painful string of bad choices. With clothing, I mean. Okay, with everything, but mostly I bought many odd and unrelated items, from Ross or Marshall’s or maybe the Gap sales rack that I look back on and wonder, “What on earth was I thinking?”

Ever budget conscious, I shopped at H&M, Gap, Banana Republic and J.Crew either at their factory stores or if it was on sale. I found pieces I liked but nothing really went together, at least not the way I wanted. My style looked hodge-podge and cheap.

 

In 2007, I got to fulfill a lifetime dream of visiting Paris. I always imagined how I’d look like a native and feel like a character in a Camus novel, or again, a Truffaut film. It didn’t really work out that way. Still struggling with what to wear and still on a budget.

After Paris came a long-awaited and very joyful pregnancy and birth of twins. From then on, there weren’t many photos taken of me. Just me taking thousands of pix of the kids. And really I didn’t think a lot about clothes. I just wanted to get back in shape and maybe have a full night’s sleep.

1st selfie

It was 2011 that I took my first mirror selfie. I had started looking at stuff online about putting together outfits. I followed J’s Everyday Style, Kendi Everyday and Unfancy to name a few.

 

In January of 2012 I started the blog “Women’s Work”, originally as a place to discuss the challenges of balancing work, childcare, etc. but it was really just a place to explore random thoughts and teach myself WordPress and blogging in addition to working as a Graphic Designer and being a mom of twins. Later I renamed it LeighFeather and committed to focusing on my three favorite things: Fitness, Fashion & Food, posting sporadically. And now it’s seven years later! I feel like I’m just starting to know my style and like what I wear. And it’s funny, I’ve probably known it all along. It’s simple and understated, sort of vintage/retro and a little masculine. It’s jeans and t-shirts and a good amount of black. And I feel good.