Monday, June 8, 2020

40 Before 40 Recap

A recap of my 40 Before 40 project -- 40 things to do in the year before my 40th birthday.

A woman's white balloon by Hipster Mum via Unsplash.com


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I've been 40 for almost a month now, and this post is woefully overdue. When I blew past my deadline to share my recap, I was just going to let it go. There are other posts I need to write. Why dwell on this one?

Then I thought about how hard I worked to cross off every item on this list. With creativity and flexibility, I was able to tackle the remaining on my lists while we've been in our self-imposed isolation due to the pandemic.

Sharing this recap is a means of celebrating the success of my 40 Before 40 project... so even though it's late, I think it's definitely worth focusing some time on. If you're curious to see how these final months played out, then keep reading!


40 Things to Do Before Turning 40

1. Pay off one student loan

40 Before 40 Recap on Taste As You Go.


When I left academia, I had TEN student loans to pay off, and I've been working really hard to chip away at that debt so I wouldn't still owe a ton of money when it came time for the kids to start college.

At the end of last year, I made the final payment for one of those loans and have now paid off three of them. Seven more loans to go!

2. Go to the beach

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I am so happy we were able to get away for a proper vacation last summer. Bringing the kids down to Stephen's parents' house in Delaware was just what we needed. I know they both had the time of their lives because they're still talking about that trip.

I doubt we'll be able to get down there this summer, but we'll all be dreaming about it!

3. Visit with a girlfriend I haven't seen in a long time

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Another highlight of last summer? My visit with my girlfriend Candice. She was up in Connecticut for work and had just enough free time to squeeze in a visit with us. Even though the visit was short, it was exactly what I needed to recharge my spirit!

4. Volunteer locally

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On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I joined a group of coworkers to volunteer at the Connecticut Food Bank. It was such a rewarding experience that made me truly appreciate what I have.

5. Attend an orchestra concert

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Originally, I wanted to travel to Washington, DC to see my high school orchestra perform at The Kennedy Center in February. Unfortunately, Stephen needed to travel for work the week of the concert, and down-and-back travel didn't make much sense for the money it would cost.

Instead, I turned to Facebook and watched the video of The Philadelphia Orchestra's livestream performance of Beethoven's 5th and 6th Symphonies in honor of the composer's 250th birthday. I had the concert playing while I was making dinner and what a mood-changer!

6. Freshen up hairstyle

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I don't cut my hair as often as my stylist recommends, so when I walked into the salon for this particular cut, my hair really needed it. Thankfully, I had my style cleaned up in time for my work conference in July.

Between then and now, I had two more haircuts, and each of them left me looking like this. Maybe I should go for something different the next time I'm able to get an appointment... What do you think?

7. Try something new

This is the one thing I didn't post about on social media... Because, well, not everything has to go online. I don't want to divulge specific details, but just know that the thing I tried wasn't something I ever wanted to do. The experience was inconvenient but ultimately necessary.

I'll leave it at that.

8. Plan another mother-daughter trip with C

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The last time C and I took a trip, just the two of us, we headed into Manhattan for a fun cooking class with friends from Pennsylvania. We also spent time exploring the city and eating yummy food.

This time, we drove to my girlfriend's house in Westchester County for a special girls' weekend. I cherished the one-on-one time we had together in the car and loved watching her interact and play with my friend's daughter.

On our way back to Connecticut, we decided to stop for lunch to have a little more time together before going home. After we ordered, we were told the restaurant was cash-only, so I headed over to the ATM to get money. When we got back to the counter, we were told that the "old gentleman with the glasses over there" had paid for our lunch. We walked to his table to thank him, and he told me he couldn't resist. C reminded him of his grandson and it made him smile to see a mom and daughter having so much fun together.

I thanked him for noticing because, sometimes, it's so hard to see that you ARE doing it right.

9. Plan a special mother-son outing with J

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This was one of the last outings we made before the pandemic. We started the day with a yummy breakfast at one of my favorite local places and then attended a show at a puppetry festival. Our sweet boy was super reluctant about the puppet show, but after some time, he was entranced. He even surprised me by lasting through the whole show!

I often worry that J gets the short end of the stick being the baby of the family. So it was really important to me to make time for just the two of us. I loved our morning together and can't wait to plan another outing as soon as possible.

10. Attend a Red Sox game at Fenway Park

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Way back before Steve and I had kids, we had a tradition of traveling to Boston to celebrate my birthday in my favorite city. And that trip always included a Red Sox game at Fenway. But times have changed, and our last ballgame at the park was on May 2, 2014.

I was able to get back to Boston last summer for a conference for work. Although I knew it was going to be a busy week with all the sessions I had lined up, I made a point to leave room in my schedule for a baseball game.

The Sox didn't win, but I can't begin to tell you how happy I was just to be back there sitting in the stadium, drinking a beer, eating my Italian Sausage and Peppers, and watching my favorite team.

Maybe the whole family can go to a game next season.

11. See a favorite artist/band in concert

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When I saw that Dashboard Confessional added Connecticut dates to their tour, I vowed to buy tickets. I waited as long as I dared to buy them... And then the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus started to worsen. Of course, that meant no tickets... And no concert.

Then came the Facebook Live broadcast by Chris Carrabba. I tuned in and enjoyed an acoustic performance of some of my favorite Dashboard songs from the comfort and safety of my own home. Not the same as experiencing the music live, but I was so grateful to join other fans in appreciation.

12. Attend a theatre performance

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C and I started attending theatre performances together in November 2018. Last summer, we headed over to Western Connecticut State University to see Sabrina's Encore Productions' production of "Annie Jr." and I was blown away by the talent up on stage! What an honor it was to sit in that audience today and see those young actors perform. You could definitely tell the entire cast worked so hard to put on a great show.

13. Plan a staycation at a local B&B



I'm eyeing three different local inns for my staycation. One day it'll be safe to travel again... And, as ironic as it sounds, I'm looking forward to enjoying some quiet time, by myself, recharging and resetting. Wine, good food, and time for reading will likely be involved, too.

Originally, I was just going to plan an overnight or a weekend getaway. But I wonder if I can get away with planning a long weekend...

14. Buy a nice pair of shoes without worrying about the price

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I have a small obsession with Kate Middleton and I've been an admirer of her style for quite some time. So when I tackled this particular item on my 40 Before 40 list, I had her in mind. Or, more specifically, her shoes.

In the summer months, the Duchess of Cambridge makes many public appearances wearing Viscata espadrille wedges. Before I had kids, I loved wearing my favorite pair of black espadrille wedges with everything. They were comfortable and had just enough of a heel to make me feel tall without making me feel unsteady on my feet. But when I outwore my third pair of those shoes, I wasn't able to replace them before the style was discontinued by the brand.

Then I spotted these espadrille wedge pumps on my favorite member of the royal family, I put them on my Wardrobe Wish List. I was going to treat myself to a pair... "one day". Of course, as things go, "one day" never arrived. Until I got promoted last summer. As a special treat, I bought two pairs of these shoes and I love them. Even now when I'm not wearing "fancy" shoes as I continue to work from home.

15. Schedule another family session with a photographer

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The last time our family did a photo shoot with a professional photographer was August 2017, just over a month after our sweet boy was born. I was so determined to have our new photos taken before my birthday and scheduled a session with Vine & Branch Photography for April. (Erica Foster Carryl and I were high school classmates and I can't wait to see how she captures my family and the very big personalities of the kids!)

But the pandemic has forced us to reschedule our session twice. We're supposed to have our photo shoot at the end of this month, so *fingers crossed* we don't have to reschedule again. Especially since I ordered new clothes and shoes for the kids just for the occasion.

16. Get a manicure/pedicure

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I don't normally wear nail polish, so whenever I do go for a manicure and/or pedicure, it's a real treat. I was planning on making an appointment the week before my birthday, but, of course, that couldn't happen. So I rooted around my bathroom cabinet for my stash of nail polish instead. After choosing a color that's probably more appropriate for fall, I blocked off time after dinner to paint my nails.

I didn't realize how much doing this one simple thing would make me happy, fitting for this particular shade.

17. Start growing herbs at home 

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Starting an herb garden was one of the first items I crossed off of my 40 Before 40 list last summer. I don't have a green thumb and was nervous about starting my herb garden from seeds. Rather than stress about it, I stopped by our local nursery and picked up a basil plant. Then I was tempted by the parsley... Then I rounded the corner and found a spearmint plant that looked promising... And then I simply couldn't leave without a rosemary plant...

Just like that, we had an herb garden. I've managed to keep all the plants alive through the summer and into the fall, so the plants were a great investment.

This year, I started an indoor herb garden on our kitchen windowsill, and we're starting to see some growth. Can't wait to harvest the herbs in a couple of months!

18. Visit the zoo

40 Before 40 Recap on Taste As You Go.

I was hoping to take the kids to the Beardsley Zoo this spring, but we weren't able to go before my birthday because everything was locked down due to the pandemic. Thanks to technology, I was still able to visit the zoo by hopping onto the San Diego Zoo's YouTube channel and watching the recording of their live video with their Galapagos Tortoises. I learned quite a lot in 20 minutes!

As Connecticut starts to reopen, maybe we'll get to visit the zoo in person before the summer is over.

19. Buy a lottery ticket

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I don't know why I waited so long to cross this one off my list, but I should have just taken care of it at the start. Instead, I had long internal debates about whether I needed to go out during a pandemic just to buy a lottery ticket. It didn't seem responsible.

But I had to run to the grocery store for a few things and there they were... Scratch-off tickets right at the register. It was a sign.

Unfortunately, neither ticket was a winner.

20. Perform one random act of kindness every day for one week

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I crossed this one off the list at the beginning of March, the last week I was out of the house before we started our period of isolation. Of all the acts of kindness I performed over that week, only two were truly "random" in the sense that I knew nothing about the individuals who benefitted from them. The other five were deliberate acts of kindness because I had specific things in mind for specific people.

Regardless, I'm hoping everyone on the receiving end of those acts felt inspired and uplifted and encouraged in some way.

21. Hire a cleaning service to do a deep clean of the house



Truth be told... I didn't actually hire a cleaning service. Instead, I've thought about ways to get the kids more involved with the maintenance and upkeep of our home. They each have their morning and evening routines, but now I want to be more organized about those routines so we don't have to debate about what needs to get done before school or before bed.

To help them out, I found these adorable printables on Etsy. I'm still deciding which ones I want to order, but I think they'll enjoy these. Being at home with them for so many consecutive days has made me rethink the way we do a lot of things in our family... And I want the kids to continue developing an appreciation for the things we have -- like a safe home, food to eat, and toys and books to play with -- while also developing a respect for how we're able to have these things.

Meanwhile, I'll keep researching cleaning services so we'll be in a position to start making phone calls and doing interviews once we're on the other side of the pandemic.

22. Learn how to bake bread

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I finally took my copy of Bread, Toast, Crumbs off the shelf in November and did something other than flip through the gorgeous pages. I set out to bake Ali's Peasant Bread so we could have homemade bread for sandwiches made with Thanksgiving leftovers.

The recipe was crazy easy to follow and didn't stress me out at all. And now I'm wondering why it's taken me so long to make homemade bread like this... I make it all the time now!

23. Go to the movies 

40 Before 40 Recap on Taste As You Go.

Back in August, I took a day off from work so I could help chaperone C's camp field trip to see The Lion King. This was her first time seeing a movie in the theater and I didn't want to miss it... Plus, given the nature of the story, I wanted to be there in case she got scared.

Turns out, she managed to need the bathroom at most of the potentially scary scenes, so I didn't have to worry about her being afraid. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Regardless, it was nice being able to join her for the experience.

Though I have to admit, I prefer the animated version better.

24. Visit an art museum

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In this case, I visited the Frist Art Museum in Nashville. Check out some of the works that inspired me during my visit.

25. Visit a local vineyard/winery

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Under normal circumstances, a visit to a vineyard would involve a tour and a tasting. Instead, we took advantage of the gorgeous weather the first weekend in May drove over to the Hopkins Vineyard so I could pick up an order I placed online.


Before leaving, we spent some time out in front of the Hopkins Inn enjoying the view of Lake Waramaug. The kids got a kick out looking at the beautiful lakeside homes and the folks out on the water. How lucky we are to live in such a beautiful little corner of Connecticut.

26. Go to a planetarium

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Thanks to technology, I visited the digital planetarium at the Roberson Museum and Science Center and watched all (yes, all!) of the videos available on the Planetarium at Home page of their website. It certainly wasn't the same experience, but I refreshed a lot of information that's been locked in my brain since 8th-grade science.

27. Buy a piece of art I love

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I used to work at an art museum. One of the museum's fundraisers focused on the art of collecting and showcased a good number of local and regional artists, from glass artists and sculptors to photographers and mixed media artists.

I was always so envious of the people who attended that fundraiser who would spend money on art that spoke to them, seemingly without batting an eye. There were so many works I would've loved to have owned, but I just wasn't in the right place in my life to buy art like that. (We had a toddler and a baby on the way.)

But things are different now. The kids are older and we're only just starting to make design decisions that reflect us as a couple rather than us as "mom and dad".

Last fall, I was introduced to the abstract expressionist work of Katie Ré Scheidt, a local artist in our corner of Connecticut. To say I fell in love with it is an understatement... Katie's work moved me so much, I began following her on Instagram. Eventually, that's how I came to purchase one of her small-scale original works.


This work -- Quest (2019) -- is special because it's the very first piece in my collection. And I love looking at it every day.

28. Go on a hike

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Back in March, we had planned to welcome family and friends at our home to celebrate our sweet girl's fifth birthday. But, in order to do our part in terms of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, we canceled the party. To make up for it, we planned a series of special treats and surprises for her, including a family hike at Lovers Leap State Park.

29. Plan an outing with my sister

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Even though we just saw each other the day before at our father's house for Christmas, my sister and I decided to meet up for lunch, just the two of us. We hardly ever get time just for us, so it was great being able to catch up without being distracted by our kids.

And, well, the chips and salsa and our round of mojitos didn't hurt either. We had so much fun, we're thinking of making this a new Christmastime tradition.

30. Spend an afternoon reading

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I carved out some time over my birthday weekend to read while the kids napped and while Stephen ran out to run mysterious Mother's Day and Birthday errands. I cuddled on the couch with my Kindle, the dog, and a glass of wine and read, uninterrupted, for a couple of hours. GLORIOUS. Just what I needed to slow things down in my world.

31. Take a cooking class

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Technically, I suppose I took a baking class since this class focused on Rustic European Breads... But potato/potahto, right?

It was a little strange taking the class by myself (i.e., not knowing anyone else in the room), but I'm proud of myself for not letting that stop me... I had such a great time!

32. Buy something at the flea market/antique store

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Since I wasn't able to pop into my favorite local antique and thrift stores, I had to take this to the internet. To Etsy, to be specific.

I came across a shop that specializes in prints based on antique illustrations and ordered a set of botanical prints featuring pink and blue hydrangeas. After I find frames for the prints, they're destined for the master bathroom... And, honestly, I can't wait to see what they look like in there. Especially since I've been dying to decorate that space since we moved in.

33. Sign up for a fitness class

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Before our Quarantine Life, I started researching barre classes in the area but couldn't find any that fit my schedule. I thought maybe I'd start running again, but after having two kids, the pounding on the pavement has proven horrible for my knees.

Then I found out I was eligible for a free account with Down Dog App through the school I work for. I started with the yoga app and was so impressed with how much it helped my mood that I downloaded their other apps.

I've fallen off the habit of working out each afternoon because I was so focused on work. I'm hoping I can get back to it now that the school year is over and things are a little quieter.

34. Finalize will

This one was a big one for me. I had wanted to write our wills ever since our sweet girl was born. And while we'd had very sobering conversations about our final wishes and our plans for the kids should something happen to us at the same time, we never put those decisions on paper.

Not having our wills finalized weighed on me for a long time, but, as of late November, I no longer had to worry about it. Our wishes have been outlined, signed, and certified.

What an amazing relief.

35. Hire a financial planner

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Despite being a habitual saver, I've always felt behind in terms of saving for the future. Especially since I spent a good portion of my 20s in graduate school with next-to-no income and since I was one of many who lost their job when the stock market crashed in 2008.

I started regaining ground when I landed a job with a dream company... But then I left that job to test myself as a freelance writer/photographer and said goodbye to financial security. And then, we started our family, so I was out of the traditional workforce even longer.

Needless to say, hiring a financial planner to help me achieve my financial goals has been on my to-do list for a long time. Once we finalized our wills and estate plans, it was easy to move on to this goal.

I. Love. My. Financial. Planner. Maria is absolutely amazing. She listens to me and helps me focus on the best ways to achieve my financial goals. And she's been an angel during these past few months, assuring me that I'm still on track.

Based on recent conversations, I'm adjusting my financial priorities, which means I likely won't pay off another student loan this year. But that's okay. I have a better sense of the big picture, so I'm okay with this shift.

36. Get a massage

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Before our sweet boy was born, I had planned to go in for a prenatal massage. One last little treat before we became a family of four... But that plan was derailed when I started experiencing preterm bleeding and landed in the hospital on partial bedrest until his arrival.

Well, I finally got that massage back in November. Major thanks to The Spa at Litchfield Hills for helping this Mama take care of herself!


37. Do something good for someone who doesn't know who I am

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As of May 2019, I hadn't given blood since my senior year of high school. Despite my desire to give, meeting the minimum weight limit was always problematic. Now that my weight is in a good place, I decided to revisit the idea of donating blood.

To help, I downloaded the Blood Donor App from the American Red Cross and made an appointment at a local drive. Then I donated my first pint of blood in more than *20 years*, thus earning my green sticker... I keep refreshing the app to see if my first donation has been logged yet and to see my "blood journey" as my donation makes its way to a hospital!


It makes me *so happy* to be a blood donor again. Especially knowing that each donation can help save up to three lives!

38. Explore a new city

40 Before 40 Recap on Taste As You Go.

In this case, Nashville.

Naturally, I had to try some of the local culinary hot spots. One night, I treated myself to a Hot Chicken Sandwich from Hattie B's for dinner. I topped mine with extra pickles and a drizzle of honey. AMAZING.

Then I spent the morning wandering around Music Row. You may not know this, but I was a musicologist in a past life. Specifically, I studied American music. After I left graduate school, I worked in the industry for a small internet music company, where part of my job included reporting sales and paying royalties to artists via BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.

SO MUCH has happened since that chapter of my life, so my walking adventure was a nice trip down memory lane. I'm so glad I made the effort to get out and discover this little corner of Nashville when I was there back in October.

39. Make something creative with my hands

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During this period of quarantine, I've made a bunch of things for the kids, to help them keep up their preschool learning while home. But I wanted to challenge myself to do something more complicated... so I picked an embroidery project since I've never embroidered anything before.

Truth be told, the project took longer than I expected to finish. I put in a lot of late nights trying to hit my deadline, but it was worth it. I'm still in the process of framing it, so I'll try and remember to take a picture once I'm able to display it.

40. Visit a new area of Connecticut

40 Before 40 Recap on Taste As You Go.


By the end of April, we were feeling overwhelmed by life in isolation, so we made plans to go for a little drive. We headed north along the Housatonic River and enjoyed seeing signs of spring everywhere.

Do you have a similar leap list? What items do you have on your list?

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One year ago: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches
Two years ago: An Ending and a Beginning
Three years ago: My Second Pregnancy is Definitely... Different {or What Landed Me in the Hospital Last Week}
Four years ago: 13 Iced Coffee Recipes That Will Keep You Cool this Summer
Five years ago: 30 Frozen Treats to Beat the Heat
Six years ago: Roasted Broccoli and White Cheddar Quiche
Seven years ago: Maple Carrot Muffins
Eight years ago: Quality Meats - New York, NY
Nine years ago: Don't Mess Around
Ten years ago: Just a Tad, Thanks to Honest Beverages
Eleven years ago: Pan-Fried Chorizo with Caramelized Onions over Mashed Potatoes

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