Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

Finding the right work/balance for 2021

You can have the best of both worlds by using balance

We are nearly three months into 2021, and while life is beginning to show signs of being on the path to being normal, it seems that we still have a ways to go. While it’s been hard for everyone, if you’re a working mother with a career, job, or business of your own, you are likely burning the candles at both ends. On its face, it seems like working from home should be an ideal situation. You don’t have to deal with traffic, or long lines at your favorite coffee or breakfast place. There are different wardrobe choices to make when working from the waist up. Thankfully, there are ways to make lounge or active wear look more professional than sweats.

There are definite advantages to working from home, but one of the biggest drawbacks is defining the boundary lines between our home and professional lives. It’s easy to fall into the role of mother/wife/girlfriend/partner/daughter very easily. So many women find their work flow interrupted by hungry children, spouses, or even calls from family because you are at home, because they don’t see the line. To that end, there things you can do to remind people you are working from home. It’s not a day off with occasional bursts of work.

Most women are natural multitaskers and it’s easy to slip back into that mode. The problem is once you do, you’ve taken care of one thing, while leaving more for you to do in the end and it will be frustrating. As much as I don’t like to admit this, we are often our own worst enemies. So, it’s worth taking the time to really figure out how you can make working from home truly work for everyone, especially you.

Last year Healthline had some great tips at the beginning of the pandemic (April 2020). Here are just a few:

Designate a workspace

Set up an area of your house to use as a workspace. Sitting down in this space sends a clear signal to your brain that it’s time to focus. Stay away from your designated workspace when you’re not working.

Once you’ve completed your workday, resist the urge to check in with any professional obligations until you begin work again.

Move around

If creating a mobile workspace helps you concentrate, set up a few spaces in your house where you can work. This may help your posture since you’ll change up your seated position. Giving yourself a set amount of time in each location may help you manage your time.

Make sure that your workspace is ergonomic. This will remove risk factors that lead to musculoskeletal injuries and allow for increased performance and productivity. While sitting on a comfy couch or your bed may sound nice, typing on your laptop while doing so for a long time could strain your back or neck.

Get ready for the day

Take the time to go about your normal morning routine, take a shower, and get dressed for the day. If you normally go to the gym, supplement your routine with exercising at home with weights for strength-training and cardio. 

Designate some work clothes, even if they’re more comfortable than your typical professional attire. If you prefer to do your hair and makeup, then go for it, even if it’s only for you.

Or allow your skin to breathe and use this time to improve its health by applying only serums, toners, or masks.

Set a schedule

Instead of having a vague plan, create a daily schedule and put it in writing. Generate a digital schedule or jot it down with pen and paper, and stick it in a visible place. Come up with a detailed to-do list that’s broken down into categories based on importance.

Create an eating plan

Plan out your meals and snacks ahead of time, such as at the beginning of the week or workday. This prevents you from working to the point of hunger and then scrambling to decide what to eat. You should also avoid eating at your workstation.

Choose foods that boost concentration, try to avoid refined carbs, processed foods, and sugary drinks. These types of carbs lead to the afternoon lull, when many find themselves struggling to stay alert.  Look to food that aid in alertness with the protein needed to fuel you through the rest of your work day.

Get a little help from your friends

Whether it’s a coworker or a longtime bestie, your friends are always there to lend an ear. They can help talk you through a work issue, or give you a laugh to make the day better and lighten your mood. This kind of playing hooky has its benefits. It gives you a chance to reset.

Communicate with your spouse or partner

It is easy to fall into the roles of mom and dad or even husband and wife without ever really taking about the things that are actually on our minds. Set aside a time when the two of you can talk without distractions. No cell phones, children, or television. Communication is the life’s blood of relationships, but you must have conversation (s) to keep it flowing.

 Working with a baby

Use a baby carrier or wrap so you can keep your child close to you. To keep your hands free, use a dictation app. If you’re on a call, you can let your recipient know that you have a baby at home in case there are any interruptions or noises.

Use their nap times efficiently, and try to schedule work that requires intense focus or conference calls during these times.

You may want to have a conversation with your boss about a modified schedule that works for both of you while working from home with a baby.

7. Working with older children

If you have young children, you’ll want to focus on their needs. But if you have an older child that can take on some extra responsibility, you can set them up with some very clear instructions and activities for help taking care of younger children or completing household chores.

You may want to work in the early morning or late evenings while your children are sleeping, especially when you need to focus on complex tasks.

 Balance structure and play

Encourage your kids to entertain themselves, but help them manage their time wisely. Set up activities to engage them.

Children can also be overstimulated, so limit their screen time and allow for occasional boredom to arise. Be firm in your approach and set clear boundaries, expectations, and consequences.

Finding your work/life balance is a work in progress. Some days it will be blue skies and sunny. Conversely, there will be times when you’re ready to pull your hair out. Remember to take a minute, breathe, and let it pass. It’s okay if your plan goes awry, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and the best part is that tomorrow is another day.

If you’re like my family, everyone eats bananas, but there’s always one lonesome banana left behind. Here’s a quick recipe that uses one banana to make a delicious muffin.

One Banana deliciousness

Banana Nut Muffins

Servings 4 muffins

Ingredients

1 ripe banana

1 egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1/4 cup silken tofu pureed 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons olive oil (virgin olive oil or olive oil, not extra-virgin)

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour)

1/4 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar pulsed)

1/4 cup brown sugar (organic brown sugar, Swerve brown sugar substitute)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions: Preheat oven to 325-degrees

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or spray with canola or vegetable spray

In a medium size mixing bowl, mash the banana. Then stir in the egg, vanilla extract, and oil until combined. Then add all at once the flour, sugars, baking soda, and salt. Fold until combined. Then stir in the chopped walnuts gently. Do not over-stir. Pour the batter into the muffin tin. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for five minutes before turning out onto a rack. Enjoy warm. Muffins will keep for three days at room temp lightly covered

Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

I was a teenage man snatcher and Martha Stewart is partially to blame

It’s a heck of a thing to call yourself a teenage man snatcher, and to point to Martha Stewart as the reason it happened. Well, I have to be honest, she was just one factor that contributed to my delinquency, and she is in good company. Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Charlotte Bronte, and Emily Bronte also contributed to my rep as a modern Victorian seductress.

I loved all things baking from a very early age. My dad gave me an Easy Bake oven when I was four, and once I saw a wedding cake, it was all downhill from there. I was hooked on stacking and frosting cakes. Eventually, my baking repertoire grew over time to include cookies, pastries, bread, muffins, and naturally more cakes. At eleven, I had a subscription to the cooking magazine, Cuisine, which eventually became Gourmet. I loved trying new recipes to challenge myself and improve my skills.

I was a teenager in the eighties. It was a time of big hair, shoulder pads, Dallas, and Dynasty. General Hospital’s Luke and Laura were the onscreen soap couple. Cooking shows were limited to PBS on Sundays and for a few precious hours on Monday evenings. I wasn’t allowed to date at the time. So, while other girls were getting ready to go out to a movie on Friday and Saturday night, I was at home or spending the night over my best friend Melissa’s house listening to the Beatles, Adam Ant, Michael Jackson, and Prince. Madonna got some airplay from us too. After all, she was a Leo like Melissa and me. Not to mention, Madonna and I have the same birthday.

I had friends, but my girl circle was fairly small, but I had a lot of guy friends. Who were really friends and not the euphemisms used to define friendship now. Melissa liked being in the kitchen as much as I did. As a result, we were able to monopolize (as other girls and some of their mother’s thought) all of the guys time with scones, chocolate cookies, muffins, and the like. By no means was it a den of ill-repute, we’d either be at Melissa’s house under her parent’s watchful eyes, or at my house with her mothership (my mother) and my younger sister.

In the beginning, learned how to set a table for company from my mother. She worked in my junior high school cafeteria as a lunch lady, but she also worked on and off for Stone catering company. That helped me get a grip on the basics, but I wanted to do it will a little more style. I was fifteen when I went on a mission to find a cookbook that combined both recipes with entertaining. I checked the shelves of my local libraries and bookstores regularly to no avail.

Then one Sunday afternoon PBS had a special on entertaining with a caterer out of Connecticut, Martha Stewart. I’d never heard of her previously, but her name and style made a lasting impression on me. I was fascinated by her attention to detail, her home décor and the way she presented food on a holiday table. Martha was my parents age and everything about her seemed smooth, elegant, and just plain regal. I scoured TV Guide to see when she was going to be on television again. I couldn’t get enough. Then one day at Waldenbooks, I saw it. Entertaining by Martha Stewart. There she was on the cover in a Victorian style white dress presiding over a perfectly decorated table. I was there with my friend Joel, who I begged to buy the book for me. Lucky for me, he bought it with the catch that I’d have him over whenever i made something from the book. That was one of the easiest deals I ever made. There was no way I wasn’t going to cook my way through the book, or die trying.

It felt like my own little storyline was happening in real life. I wasn’t going on dates but I was in the kitchen with Martha and my friend Melissa. I was in my Victorian phase. I loved Gunne Sax dresses and old lace. We made scones, muffins, bread, pies, cakes, and more kinds of biscotti than anyone could shake a stick at. Although I predate Kelis, her Milkshake song is appropriate here, except it wasn’t my milkshake that brought the boys to my yard, it was my pepperoni loaf.

Martha Stewart’s first book was my gateway drug to Cuisinart food processors, Kitchen Aid stand mixers, mini-herb choppers, wedding cake pans, Madeline molds, and more. My entertaining game was on the rise and my guy friends could reap the benefits from my properly set table.

Entertaining worked perfectly, and I had all the eligible guys were at my house and around the kitchen. The funny thing was I didn’t want anything more than friendship. Although I had to admit there was one guy I liked, and my mother was okay with him. My sister didn’t like him that much, but that was neither here nor there at the time. I wasn’t allowed to date, and he was already in college. All the man snatching hullabaloo happened because he was the object of someone else’s affection, and that affection wasn’t returned. I can’t say that I didn’t understand why she and her mother needed a heavy. Who wants to believe a guy rejected them straight out of hand. So, naturally, I was deemed a little Entertaining hussy, tempting men with baked goods and cooked meals. Still, I didn’t let it faze me in the least.


At the height of our entertaining jag, Melissa and I held a formal dinner for all the guys at her house. There was Melissa’s Greek Moussaka, my pepperoni loaf, rolls, roasted vegetables and cake for desert made by me. It was a success and enjoyed thoroughly judging by the number of second helpings and empty plates. It was the only dinner party we ever had as teenagers, but that was okay with us. I had the opportunity to show off my Martha skills long before her name became a verb and before Snoop ever heard of the lady who used to rule over an estate and property in Turkey Hill, Connecticut (at the time). I have come a long way from the wide-eyed sixteen-year-old girl when the first edition of Entertaining was released. My skills have gotten better and while I still prefer to make things from scratch, I am a little more relaxed about it courtesy of another lifestyle/tv-chef maven, Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I’ve integrated Martha’s penchant for good things, with Ina’s how easy is that philosophy, and the amalgamation works.

I’m no longer a man snatcher and my milkshake is a little thicker, but I still bring all the boys to the table, only this time, the boys are mine and the loves of my life. My twin sons Sean and Scott, who are my ultimate good thing.

I am including one of the first recipes I ever made from Entertaining by Martha Stewart Copyright 1982.

Banana Bread recipe by Martha Stewart adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-sensitivities, low sugar, and no-sugar dietary needs by Chamein Canton

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan (vegan butter, margarine)
  • 1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)
  • 2 large eggs (4 tablespoons Aquafaba, 1//2 cup silken tofu, pureed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum, millet, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (dairy; light sour cream, plain yogurt) (non-dairy; soy milk, or almond milk yogurt) (vegan sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

  1. Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat to incorporate.
  2. Step 2 In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla; mix to combine. Stir in nuts and pour into prepared pan.
  3. Step 3 Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

Additional Notes

  1. To make a flax or chia seed egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed/chia seed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken.
Flaxseed Egg photo from Chocolate Covered Katie