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My Biggest Revelation of 2015

2015 November 24


I think that one of my biggest revelations of 2015 was defining success for myself.

For so many years, I had defined it by what society and my colleagues and my industry prompted: the right clients, the right income, the right title on my business card. And it was exhausting. It was daunting. It was seemingly impossible to do everything right….because it was by someone else’s standards.

Earlier this year, I printed new cards with no title. I still kept track of my income, of course, but I refused to let it lead my decision-making process like I used to. And when I stopped categorizing the “right” clients only by their brand recognition, profile and stature, I found the “right” ones were the ones that I wanted to work with – big and small – where I would truly get excited about moving the needle and doing great work.

And I realized what success really looked like to me. And I had it all right in front of me. No glass ceiling. No more climbing the corporate ladder. It was all right there before me, in that very moment…and in 2015, I finally saw it.

My definition of success is being able to do good work with good people while still having the time and flexibility to enjoy my very good life.

It’s not complicated. It’s simple, actually, but for whatever reason, it took me a really long time to be able to define it, feel comfortable with that definition, and most importantly, strive for it. It means being able to do after-school pick up a few days per week. It means being able to only schedule calls and meetings mid-week so that I can start my week and end it on a productive, focused note. It means traveling when I want to travel, not when I have to. It means looking for clients and colleagues who are like-minded in their approach to career, family and work/life balance. It means having a lunch date with my husband on a sunny Friday and answering emails at 9pm sometimes to make up for it. Yes, it also probably means a little less money than I would have had I stayed on the corporate path. It means a business card with no title (which is actually kind of cooler, in my opinion) and having to hustle a little more each month to maintain my bottom line and to network outside of my little (but mighty) home office. It means no retirement plan beyond my own and none of the superficial security that comes with a standard 9-to-5.

But what I came to realize this year is that my definition of success isn’t just about my professional life. My personal life plays just as important of a role. And the fact that I can embrace both with the same passion and time and energy is beyond what any title on any business card could mean for me. That is the measure of true success to me and I am not going to spend one more day of my life chasing it. It’s time to embrace it.

Am I lucky? Absolutely. But did I also work really hard to build the life I have? Absolutely. There were sacrifices and endless hours of worry and insecurity along the way. There were slow months and busy months and nights when those 9pm emails turned into midnight marathons. There were opportunities missed and opportunities gained and a lot of time stressing about both.

But there was also that moment, earlier this year, when I realized it was everything I had ever wanted it to be. And I had made it happen. And I was going to appreciate every ounce of it – the professional and the personal. And that was my definition of success.

Yours might be different. It might mean even more time at home or more time on Wall Street. It might mean being able to write every day or cook for the people you love or finding time to volunteer twice per week. It can mean so many different things to so many different people. But I urge you to figure it out. To define it for yourself, not by how society wants to define it for you. And most importantly, I urge you to embrace it. To own it, to speak up for it, to strive for it and to pat yourself on the back once you have it. Because being able to define what success looks like to you – and only you – is really the only way to truly achieve it.

Find of the Day

2015 November 23

FindoftheDay-WWGwynethDoMy amazingly talented Insta-friend Alexandra (she did the invites and decor for Kai’s first birthday and it was the cutest) is sharing these free Thanksgiving leftovers printables on her site.

You can download them here.

Enjoy! xx

Menu Planning – Thanksgiving

2015 November 21


When we moved into our new home back in early August my mom said we would be settled by Thanksgiving.

I laughed at her naivety. My type A personality couldn’t possibly take close to four months to get settled…

Well here we are, just days away from Thanksgiving. And we are almost settled. You win, mom. Again.

We are hosting the holiday (that has quickly become one of my favorites) and it will be the first big family celebration in our new home so it’s a little milestone for us. This home has turned out to be everything we hoped it would be: full of tranquility and ease and a casual, elegant sense of style that works for us, our kids and Luna, our newest addition to the family (you can meet her on Instagram).

So I want our Thanksgiving to evoke the same sense of easy simplicity that I have grown to strive for and appreciate so much in my life these days. The table will be simple (I love the inspiration above via here). The schedule will be relaxed with enough time for cocktails and lounging around and maybe a nap or two. And the menu will be classic and fuss-free. Some of it homemade, some of it pre-made and some of it made by someone else. Because that’s the definition of easy elegance to me. Here’s what I have planned:

Thyme popovers via Ina (I met her last week and she was just as awesome and cool and laid-back as you imagine…more on that someday)

11-layer potato gratin via Bobby Flay (he made this with Ina on her Thanksgiving special and I can’t lie, I finally have a foodie crush on Flay; I never got it until about two weeks ago and now I so get it…)

Classic herb stuffing 

Turkey (being made by a lovely specialty store down the road…)

Gravy (being made from a box…)

Brussels sprouts roasted with pancetta and balsamic (doesn’t even require a recipe: half them, toss them in oil, s&p, roast them until they’re really crispy with the pancetta and drizzle balsamic)

Cranberry sauce (from a can – who needs to make their own cranberry sauce? Not this girl)

Homemade pies from a quaint little bakery one town over – I ordered one pumpkin for the holiday and one triple chocolate cream…for the hostess

Any easy favorites on your menu that I should know about? Share!

5 Steps to Making a Decision

2015 November 20

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 8.34.25 AMI had to make a tough decision at work this week.

I thought about it for a few days. I wrestled with the whys. I pondered the hows. I worried about the what ifs. And ultimately, I came to the right conclusion by going through five important steps that led me (and my worried mind) to a firm decision. Here they are, in case you ever need to work through one of your own:

  1. I looked in the mirror. I put on my objective hat and took a long, hard look at the situation and my role in it. I tried to examine the whole scenario from an outsider’s point of view and clearly identify my role in it so that long after it’s over, I can at the very least have some lesson to take away.
  2. I looked at the worst case scenario. I anticipated what this decision would mean to me, my business, my family…everything and everyone under the sun. I worried about the change and how it would impact my life and once I came to terms with the worst case scenario (which, realistically, won’t even happen), I was able to see it was still the best decision.
  3. I looked to the future. Will this matter in one week, one month, one year? I use this litmus test for a lot of decisions in my life – personal and professional – and it always gives me the dose of perspective I need to make the best call. And I looked to similar situations from the past, too (though thankfully there have been very few of them)…did it impact my life to make those choices the way I did? Only for the better.
  4. I looked around. I purposely took a few days to think about the scenario and to closely examine the other relationships and projects I have in my life. Guess what? They are all great. Healthy, happy, exactly what I strive for every day. And it helped me to realize this was a blip, just something that wasn’t meant to be. I looked to the good to help me come to terms with the bad.
  5. I looked to myself. Ultimately, my gut was telling me what to do all along. Sometimes it’s hard to listen to your instinct because it doesn’t pay the mortgage or feed the kids, but it’s there for a reason. And when I questioned why I was questioning the situation at all…it made the final decision for me. Sometimes in life we make choices for our family or our needs or our wants. And sometimes we have to make them for ourselves and nothing more. And that can make the toughest of choices the easiest ones of all.

And with that, my friends, I wish you a very happy end of the week…

The Power of Yes

2015 November 12


A few months ago, we started to make a conscious effort to encourage our kids to say “yes.”

To physically use the word, as it was intended to be used. Instead of yeah, sure, uh-huh and the like. When they use one of the shortcut terms, we gently remind them to use the word “yes” instead.

Before you all call me out for being a crazy, type A mom (not that I don’t have those tendencies on occasion…trust me), this started out innocently – my ears were hurting from all the random “yeahs” I was hearing all day, usually mumbled in passing, barely articulating a thing. It just sounded lazy and bored to me and frankly, I was just getting lazy and bored of hearing it with every question I asked.

But then the reasoning behind it became a little more meaningful. “Yeah” started sounding so disengaged to me, so casual, that it felt like they were already teenagers sneaking past me in a hurry to anywhere and that the conversation was eroding before my very eyes. It felt like they weren’t taking pride in their decisions and their responses and their voice when they uttered “sure” with their eyes evading the question. It seemed like “uh-huh” was not only overly casual but kind of rude…like omitting the “please” and “thank you” we’ve been taught to ingrain in them since birth. Why are “please” and “thank you” the only ones we need to enforce? Who made up that rule?

So we started encouraging them to say “yes” instead. And with time, they did it. And now, they always do it. With us, with teachers, with friends, with their elders, even with each other.

They say “yes” and they articulate it and they say it with clarity and confidence in their voice. They say “yes” and they think about it and they choose to use it and they say it with pride. They say “yes” and they treat the conversation or the question at hand with respect and attention – whether that question is big or small.

With time, I know it will become like “please” and “thank you” and it will go on auto-pilot. It won’t have the same significance when they are using it subconsciously, when they aren’t getting our gentle reminders or when they grow older and don’t think about it at all. I know all that. But I also know that right now, at this stage of parenting, this little word took on big meaning for us. It showed that we could teach our kids about being mindful and thoughtful and communicating well. That we can lead them by example and create routines that they may (hopefully) keep with them for years to come. That we showed them how to use their voices with clarity and confidence. And honestly, that it didn’t take that much effort or stress on our part to make the change. It was a little thing that we started doing and it had a very big impact on these little minds and how we mold them. And that was more powerful than I ever imagined it would be.

Six Months Later…

2015 November 10

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.02.28 PM

I have been wanting to find my way back to this space for a few months now but it has been surprisingly difficult. Not because of a lack of time or a lack of interest or even a lack of inspiration…but because it started to intimidate me. It started to loom at me and make me second guess its very existence. Its blank slate looked like a hurdle rather than a canvas. Coming up with the right words, at the right time, to say the right thing seemed like an impossibly daunting task.

But here I am.

Today I looked at this space and realized it has been a whole six months since I left it. And here’s what happened in that six months: I stopped writing. I started to think I was not a good writer. I started to tell myself that I shouldn’t get back to it. I began to believe that my energy and talent and time was better spent on something else – anything else – besides writing. On my kids, on our new home, on my business and my marriage. On the new puppy we are bringing home this weekend and the holidays that loom ahead and the to-dos and must-dos and want-to-dos that were crowding my inbox and my mind on a daily basis.

Anywhere else but on me.

Well now is the time for me.

It’s not for the followers, the stats, the perfect Instagram moments or the extra income. It’s not for the comments or the likes or the shares. It’s not for the kids or the husband or the clients.

It’s for me.

For the writing and the blank canvas and the six months I spent questioning so much and coming back to the same answer over and over again:

Now is the time for me.

And I am happy to be back.

I hope you are finding some time for you right now as well. xx

Finding the Great

2015 May 11


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


The Insider’s Guide to The Parker Palm Springs

2015 May 5


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


Five Chocolate Cakes That You Should Make

2015 May 3


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:


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.


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.


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…



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.


And blow out a candle for me 😉

*top image via Kinfolk

Birthdays and Balloons and Curve Balls and All

2015 May 2


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)