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Finding the Great

2015 May 11
by WWGD

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Happy Monday, friends.

I hope your Mother’s Day weekend was filled with love and hugs and homemade cards and flowers.

Mine was, and along with it, came a much-needed dose of perspective.

You see, I am a type-A, give it 100%, do everything to the best of my ability kind of girl. At home, at work, even at play. I like to know that everything I put my time and effort and heart into is getting all of me, at any given moment.

And that it’s going to be great.

Really, really great.

And with that, you can probably guess where this post is going. This space is going on a little hiatus. It may be for weeks, it may be for a month, it may be for a few…I don’t really know the parameters of it quite yet, but I do know that it was time to make it official rather than giving you (and myself) the ongoing impression that my lack of activity and passion here was just an oversight and not an intentional shift. Because it is intentional.

I started this space many years ago as a vehicle for my writing. And some really good writing has come out of it, in my humble opinion. But somewhere along the way, it has also increasingly become about stats and followers and meaningless headlines and posts to grab interest, eyeballs, numbers. Yes, I wanted those numbers because of the writing – because that meant I had actual readers – but the purpose has kept zigging and zagging and leaving me lost.

Lately, I have had so much going on in my little world that feeling lost about anything simply isn’t going to work. Everything I touch right now has to feel right and fulfilling and exciting and sincere. I just don’t have the time or the headspace to live a lukewarm life. Nor do you have the time to read it, and I respect your time just as much as mine.

So for now, I am taking a little pause from this space.

The content I have built will stay right here for easy reference, because I am proud of it and I love to go back in my archives (especially the “Musings“) and read through it all. I am going to keep writing and stock piling new pieces and one day soon, I would love to turn them into a book of some sort. I don’t know what that looks like either, but I will do it when I know it will be the best it can be. I will still share bits and pieces of life and things that I love on social media so you can always find me there. And if you want to get in touch about anything, I am always just an email away.

When I am back, I hope it’s better than ever.

I hope it’s really, really great.

And I hope some of you will still be there to enjoy it.

But in the meantime, thank you to those of you who have been reading and writing and sharing and liking. Thank you for taking time out of your day to spend a little of it with me. Thank you for sending me words of encouragement and personal stories of motherhood and career and balance and inner beauty along the way.

And most of all, thank you for allowing me to take this little pause to find the great.

Raluca xx

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The Insider’s Guide to The Parker Palm Springs

2015 May 5
by WWGD

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There is something simply magical about The Parker Palm Springs.

It may be the winding labyrinth of overgrown pathways dotted with nothing but bright flowers and their intoxicating aroma. It may be the hidden hideaways around every corner where you feel like you can tuck away from the desert sun and no one will ever find you. It may be the Bloody Mary at Norma’s.

This desert hotspot is definitely one of my favorites and on my last visit, I was lucky enough to be a guest at the wedding of a dear friend who knows the Parker inside and out. She schooled us on some insider tips that everyone should have in their pocket next time they visit, so here it is…

Your insider’s guide to a stay at the Parker:

Do not scoff at the daily resort fee. Unlike at most luxury hotels, this one is actually worth every single penny…but only if you know how to make the most of it.

First, valet parking is included, with in and out privileges, which is a nice touch.

Second, it gives you access to the award-winning spa, PSYC (or Palm Springs Yacht Club), whether or not you book a treatment. You can go and steam, sauna, swim in the indoor pool and r-e-l-a-x like a true local any time of day, any day of the week, all included in your resort fee.

Third and fourth: when you check in at the spa, be sure to ask for the complimentary vodka shot that they have on-hand to get you in spa mode and do not leave without a visit to the relaxation room (it’s kind of hidden behind a set of tall, thick navy curtains with no sign or anything) which is a stunning sanctuary of peace and tranquility…Parker style. We popped in in the late afternoon and didn’t leave for three hours, almost missing our dinner plans altogether…it was that lovely. And the common pool area is co-ed so you and your man can chill out together.

Outside of the spa, bring your appetite to the pool but don’t feel limited by the less-than-exciting menu. If you loved something at Norma’s, you can ask to order from there even when you are poolside and they will make it happen…just give them an extra nice smile.

Oh and if you’re hitting the adult pool (which I recommend…we have made one visit to the hotel with kids and it was definitely not as fun; no offense to my kids) and a pool “scene” is not your thing, see if the seats in the “secret garden” – or at least that’s what we called it – are available. It’s a small enclave of tucked away loungers that are nestled behind one of those wild labyrinth hedges and we hid from the poolside hipsters there for hours with our own dedicated waiter and some welcome shade from the blazing sun. The pool hostess said they are rarely used so snag them if you can.

Next is possibly my favorite tip of all (ok, the vodka shot might be my favorite)…pretend it’s the 90s and request a wake-up call. Because it comes with a complimentary pot of coffee (small or large – usually up to $14 on the room service menu) delivered to your guest room with the morning paper and a soft, subtle knock on the door (it’s followed by the blaring phone two minutes later, but by then you have a full pot of fresh, Intelligentsia coffee so you don’t mind as much).

Finally, sign up to be a Starwood member, if you aren’t already. Members get first pick at late check-outs, which means you can lounge by that pool and pop by the spa for one more steam (and a nip of vodka) until a whopping 4pm.

That’s practically bed time in the desert, friends. And trust me, you won’t want to leave…

*photo via my Instagram – you can follow me here

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Five Chocolate Cakes That You Should Make

2015 May 3
by WWGD

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Today is my birthday!

And while I am personally celebrating with red velvet this year (it’s supposed to be a surprise, but a certain four-year-old spilled the secret…because he is the cutest ever), it’s got me thinking about cakes and chocolate and special occasions and love.

What says love more than a homemade cake, frosted to perfection, on any old random day, just because? Not much, friends. Not much.

So here are five chocolate cake recipes I am swooning over right now…I may just have to make one this week to celebrate a whole lot of nothing special…after we polish off the red velvet, of course:

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These rustic naked cakes are so beautiful and seemingly simple to put together. This one is topped tall with fresh berries and layers of whipped filling. Use your favorite chocolate cake recipe and just cut it into layers (my friend Rachel has a great how-to video for this) and pile it high.

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A mini chocolate olive oil cake to pull together on that random Wednesday night when you just need a little cake to get you through the day. Make two if you have to share.

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A pumpkin chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and finished with caramel buttercream. Because the pumpkin practically makes it healthy. And we both know how health-conscious we are…

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A one-bowl chocolate cake recipe from Martha Stewart. Because I learned a long time ago that everyone needs two things in their life: a one-bowl cake recipe and a one-bowl cake recipe from Martha Stewart.

Finally, Beatty’s Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten. None of the photos I could find do this cult-favorite cake justice, so I will simply pass along the recipe and say…go and make it.

Tonight.

And blow out a candle for me 😉

*top image via Kinfolk

Birthdays and Balloons and Curve Balls and All

2015 May 2
by WWGD

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And just when you think life is as good as it gets…it throws you a curve ball.

Or, in the case of this week, it throws you several.

After our amazingly relaxing weekend away in Palm Springs, we came home and Kai came down with the stomach flu. At the same time, our escrow process took some unexpected detours into stress-ville and I was pitching a new potential client that I really want to get and Little D had a big week of school deadlines that we were just about to miss…and I ate one too many slices of pizza to make up for it all.

And then Friday came. And the stomach bug finally left the building (for the most part) and escrow closed (yay!) and the deadlines were met and hopefully that project will come through.

And tomorrow I turn 37. It’s not a milestone birthday to most. It’s not 35. It’s not 40. It’s 37.

But it’s a milestone for me. I don’t typically embrace my birthdays and the attention that comes with them, but this year I want to. I want to celebrate the 37 years that have been so very good to me. To toast the friends and family that make my life so rich. To give thanks for the incredible blessings and fortune I have. To appreciate what it means to be 37 and healthy and happy and inspired and lucky.

Curve balls and all.

I love to bring people balloons on their birthday, no matter the age. The more balloons, the better, I say. The ones with extra helium that last for weeks as a floating reminder of a special day. It’s a symbol of youth and fun and happiness and light. It’s a sign that says it’s your day, let’s celebrate! Whether you’re 7 or 77 or 37. Whether it’s a milestone birthday or not. Whether you choose to embrace it or wish it away.

Let’s celebrate. Curve balls and all. And that’s what I plan to do.

Have a great weekend! xx

*image via here (no original source found, please share if you find one so I can credit)

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A Weekend Done Right

2015 April 27
by WWGD

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We headed to Palm Springs for a wedding this weekend and I never wanted it to end.

It was just one of those trips where you really got to relax and recharge. To laugh hysterically one minute and sit silently with your thoughts the next. To drink tequila at noon and eat pizza at midnight and laugh some more.

I feel so incredibly lucky that I met a great group of girlfriends in my late 20s that I feel I have known forever. To have a husband who gets voted “best moves on the dance floor” at every wedding we go to. To have parents who will stay home with my littles while we go and pretend to be kids again for a few days.

Sometimes being a kid again is just what you need to do for a few days.

Today, we’re back to the grown up grind.

Working, juggling a kid who has a stomach flu, adding up budgets and to-dos for the new house, coordinating summer camp schedules, washing sheets.

But we are taking it all on with a little more energy.

A fun memory or two tucked in the back of our minds. Of tequila at noon and pizza at midnight. Of laughter on the dance floor and moments of silence stolen in the sun. Of a few recharging days filled to the brim with relaxation.

Of being a kid again. And never wanting it to end.

And that’s the sign of a weekend done right.

Happy Monday. xx

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My Birthday Haul

2015 April 22
by WWGD

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There is this phenomenon online that involves 16 year old girls going shopping and sharing all their purchases on YouTube in “haul” videos and making millions.

Um…tell me again why 16 year olds get to have all the fun?!?

I did a little early birthday shopping today and thought I would share my “birthday haul” with you all – not in an attempt to make millions, but maybe in an attempt to feel 16 again? Who knows, but it’s kind of fun.

Even for us 30 somethings.

So here it is, friends. My birthday haul for my 37th year.

Hope you find something that makes you feel 16 again…

(above) I spent a big chunk of my change at Madewell which isn’t entirely surprising. This brand just speaks to me. The styling is great, the quality is there, and it has an easy, breezy approach to fashion that I just adore. This white eyelet dress captures two of this summer’s trends – little white dress and eyelet – in a pretty, but not too pretty way. It was on the sale rack in-store though it doesn’t show as sale online, so if you run into it, snag it while you can.

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I was in the market for a new pair of jeans and these grey, high-riser skinnies felt like a nice change of pace. If you haven’t tried Madewell denim yet, you should. They fit me (and my curves) super well and don’t break the bank. This high-waist cut is uber comfortable and the stretch in these is so good, they felt years old right there in the dressing room.

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I had a pair of Birkenstocks on my spring wish list and my mom kindly made that wish come true for me. I was lusting after the white when I saw them online but in real life, they were too…white. After my mom mentioned that she’s had hers for 25 years, I opted for a classic tan suede instead (which, according to the Nordstrom sales guy is the brand’s most popular style and color ever) and instantly fell in love. So I am officially in the Birks club. I get it now.

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Meanwhile, back at Madewell…(because you didn’t think I stopped at two things, did you??) I got this white, cotton boxy button-down. This was a look I saw all over the place and actually tried on in other stores, but Madewell got it right. The cotton is thick and luxurious, the cut is just baggy enough without being slumpy and the length is supreme over those grey skinnies.

BirthdayHaul-WWGwynethDoNo special occasion goes by without me splurging on a candle for my collection. This time, I opted for a new scent from Jo Malone…sweet almond and macaroon. Mine came with the super stylish new black label, which I love. If you like sweet, warm scents this one is pretty amazing and Jo Malone’s candles are so strong you can usually enjoy the essence without even burning it…simply pop off the top and let it fill the room.

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Finally, this cutout dress from Madewell (my last thing from there, promise!). I have had my eye on this online for weeks and was so excited to see it looked just as good in-person. I had to size up so the cutouts and bust wouldn’t look too tight but the vertical stripes and midi, slight A-line still looked slimming and super cute. I felt like I was on a sun-drenched fishing boat a la The Talented Mr. Ripley…and well, we all know that makes it an instant must-have.

Hope you liked my first “haul”! I sure had fun shopping for it 😉

*this post contains affiliate links. 

**contrary to how it looks, this post is not sponsored by Madewell. 

Now Reading

2015 April 21
by WWGD

NowReading-WWGwynethDoHere’s a little look at the latest on my bookshelf…

At some points, I loved Meghan Daum’s highly anticipated The Unspeakable. At some points, I merely liked it. She is a great writer and has a casual, conversational tone that I love but as with The Opposite of Loneliness, I felt like some of her stories were fantastic and some were just ok. I’m starting to realize that the issues I have with these memoir-type books is often a reflection of the editor’s work, not the writer’s.

It’s no secret by now that I am a fan of Liane Moriarty’s frothy fiction and The Husband’s Secret was no exception. This woman just knows how to write a page-turner. The stories are easy-to-follow, always intriguing and well written. It’s nothing deep, ladies. But sometimes, that’s just what your tired mind needs.

And then there are days when your mind just needs a good dose of Oprah Winfrey. And she delivers it in What I Know For Sure. This book is a compilation of her back-of-the-book monthly columns in O Magazine and it’s filled with the kind of inspirational, awe-inspiring wisdom only Oprah can deliver. I found myself having more than a few of her signature “aha moments” while I took it in and kept thinking of all the women in my life who would benefit from its thoughtful, beautifully written passages. It’s definitely one to add to your bookshelf (skip the digital copy and get the real hard cover version, it’s worth it) and would make a wonderful gift for anyone in your life who could use a little extra Oprah in their life…and really, who couldn’t use a little extra Oprah in their life?

Next up: The Girl on the Train. Will report back. And, as always, welcome your recommendations and thoughts in the comments below!

*this post contains affiliate links 

Anatomy of a Great Gift

2015 April 20
by WWGD

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I bought a birthday gift for a dear friend this week and it got me thinking about what makes a good gift versus a not-so-good gift…(because we all know we’ve gotten our fair share of both). Here are some gift giving tips I like to keep in mind when shopping for the special people in my life:

Multiple gifts make a major impression. I like to give a couple of little things versus one big one, because everyone likes to open a few little surprises at once. It doesn’t have to break your budget; you can couple one more expensive item with some smaller token ones, but in my opinion, this is one scenario where quantity can go a long way…

Share your favorite things. A few years ago in an office holiday gift exchange one of my co-workers gave me a few of her favorite things – and I loved it! She wanted to share some of the things she loves the most and the concept was so sweet and heartfelt, I remember it years later. I love to gift my friends my favorite lip balm or a favorite book or the perfect tee that I can’t get enough of. And I always mention it’s a favorite in the card.

Give a gift card…but don’t stop the giving there. At this age, it’s tough to find the perfect everything for even your closest friend or family member so I always like to include one gift card among the other small gifts so they have some autonomy to go and treat themselves with their personal wish list in mind. But I never give a gift card solo…it feels too impersonal to me unless it’s paired with something else. A nail salon card with your favorite three polishes, a restaurant gift card with a bottle of your favorite wine, a retail gift card with your favorite accessory from the brand…etc.

Scout their social media. Check out your recipient’s Instagram and Pinterest for their favorite must-haves of the moment. My Pinterest wish list board is alive and kicking all year-round (mainly for my own amusement though those of you shopping for my upcoming birthday are welcome to reference it, too…;)) and it’s an easy place to find the things I am coveting most…sometimes with a direct link to purchase.

Don’t mind the presentation, mind the message. This is my personal rule because I am the worst gift-wrapper in the world (I actually paid a friend in wine a few years ago to do my holiday wrapping for me), but I feel like the true sentiment comes in your personal feelings and not just in the pretty presentation. I always include a proper card (not just a gift tag), no matter the occasion, and take the time to write a heartfelt message that shows how much I care about that person and their special day. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but it always beats a fancy wrapping job in my book… 😉

Week in Review

2015 April 18
by WWGD

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Happy Saturday, friends!

We’ve earned this one around these parts. We are in the thick of selling our home and making decisions about the new one and it feels like we’re in this constant game of “hurry up” and “then stop and wait” and the back and forth is fun and unsettling and exhausting all at once.

I guess most big changes in life are like that.

We are on the right path and hopefully we can wrap everything up in a pretty little bow in the coming weeks and move onto the pure excitement phase of this chapter.

I am obsessed with flooring right now and have learned more about wire brushing and wood finishes and adhesive options than I ever thought I would…but we’ve (almost) finally made our decision and I am sure it’s going to look beautiful.

I just really want this new home to feel calm and comfortable and stylish and light. I want it to reflect who we are now as a family, how we have grown and evolved and built our lives. How we live day-to-day and how we relax at the end of it. I want it to feel like a true sanctuary for our whole family and to fit our needs and to inspire us everyday. I want us to look around it and feel proud of everything we have accomplished and feel excited for all the memories to come.

No pressure at all. Ha.

In the meantime, Little D is officially celebrating her birthday this weekend. She wanted to do a sleepover with three girlfriends but I felt like our house was too small and too busy with Kai lurking around to do it properly. So I got us a room at a nearby hotel so we can do the sleepover in style. It’s surprisingly more affordable than most of the parties we’ve thrown her through the years and I am sure the girls will enjoy the pool, pizza and movie marathon. We will see how mama does…

Some other things I loved this week:

This viral campaign started by a teacher in Denver is amazingly powerful and makes you think.

This kind of sums up my every day right now.

My girl Sarah looks impossibly gorgeous in these bright lip colors for spring and now I want to go out and buy every one.

We’ve been living on a lot of take-out lately and my beloved menu planning ritual has taken a serious hit…but as soon as I get inspired to get back in the kitchen (hopefully very soon for all our sakes!), this is the first dish I want to make.

A must-read for all you writers out there.

Finally, don’t forget to enter my CanvasPop giveaway over on Instagram, friends. It’s a good one. And a special discount code is in this post, too. Trust me, their mosaics are the perfect accent to any happy home…and we can’t wait to hang it in ours.

Have a great weekend. xx

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On The Topic of Family Photos

2015 April 15
by WWGD

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I am not one of those people whose walls are plastered with family photos.

We like to keep our general design aesthetic simple, clean and calming and as much as I love my little ones’ faces to bits, I have never been one to have them staring back at me from every single angle of my house. We have a beautiful gallery wall set up in our staircase and just a few special framed family photos in discreet places throughout the house and I cherish them even more that way.

“Less is more” and all that.

And now I have a new special piece to cherish in our new home.

We make and save so many great memories on our phone cameras nowadays and so we picked some of our favorite ones and made them into a beautiful canvas collage with CanvasPop and I love it so much that I had to share.

The process was so easy I did it at my laptop one night with two kids talking in my ear and a glass of wine in my hand. We simply scrolled through our Instagram accounts via their software, picked our most precious pics and uploaded them into their photo mosaic template. We customized the size, framing and finish (we debated between black and white and color for a while and color won out – but both looked super cool) and done.

A week or so later, this beautiful, bright, amazing ode to our little crew arrived at our doorstep. It’s a visual snapshot of our family’s amazing energy and the perfect candid complement to some of our more posed, traditional framed photos. One note: the glass of wine may have been a bad idea because I doubled up on a few pics in the collage…oops. Double check your work.

I really love it and I know you would love it too so the kind folks at CanvasPop and I are partnering up to give away one free 16×20 canvas print with a 0.75 inch frame and free shipping. To enter, follow me on Instagram (@wwgwynethdo), find the pic above and comment with the hashtag #WWGDCanvasPop. I will pick a winner at random on April 30th, 2015.

And if contests aren’t your thing, don’t fret. CanvasPop is ALSO offering you guys a very special (and pretty great!) discount of 35% off one order with the code WWGD35 from now through June 30th, 2015**.

So start combing through those photos, friends. And go turn them into memories.

*many thanks to CanvasPop for partnering with me on this giveaway

**valid for orders shipping within the US and Canada; cannot be combined with other discounts or promo codes.