This morning started in tears, in a very good way. I am so very proud. Not only of my daughter but also my friend (and former student) Hollie Willliamson. I met Hollie while teaching Photoshop classes at Washtenaw Community College. Not yet out of high school, Hollie was taking college courses in order to get a jump on her education as a graphic designer. I could tell right away that she had talent as well as the ambition to do great things. I hired her as an intern at the magazine I was working at as the creative director at the time and since then she has spent the last six year blossoming into the amazing young lady she is today. Now an Advertising major at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit she called me asking if she could borrow my daughter and dog for a commercial shoot and I was more than happy to oblige.

The last warm weekend of the year she came over with her equipment and a shooting assistant and got to work. She had a production book, a list of shots she wanted and a very professional and fun attitude about the whole thing. Through her hard work and creative eye she was able to make this spot and I couldn’t be more proud of her and her fantastic efforts. Please take a moment to watch, like and share the video. This girl is going places! Mark my words!!!


Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. Lots of family and food, without all of the stressful shopping! We were blessed enough to be able to host two parties at our house this year. The first with my family, who are partly vegetarian. We offered Cornish Game Hens to the meat-eaters and a baked potato bar for the rest (although everyone loved it!). For Kevin’s family we did the traditional turkey and all of the fixings which turned out perfect!

So many things to be thankful for! Love to all!
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I made this last night and it was fantastic!

Ingredients:
2 russet potatoes, washed and dried
1 small head of cauliflower, stem removed cut into florets
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
10 tbsp shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 tbsp chopped chives (or green onions), divided
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions:
Pierce potatoes with a fork; microwave on high for 5 minutes turn over and microwave another 3 – 5 minutes, until tender. Dunk in cold water to cool. Peel potatoes.

Meanwhile, boil cauliflower in water until tender. Drain and return to pot. On medium heat, add chicken broth, milk, potatoes and bring to a boil. Use a blender to puree until smooth. Add sour cream, half the chives (or green onions), salt and pepper and cook on low another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Ladle soup into each bowl. Top each serving with 2 tbsp cheese, remaining chives, and bacon.

*Based on a Weight-Watcher’s Recipe: See Here


*Featured on Offbeat Mama!!

As we get closer to the birth of our second child (just 100 days to go, in fact), we have been careful to make sure our daughter does not feel over-shadowed. She has a birthday coming up, February 9th, and this year we told her she could upgrade to a bunk bed. She has been drooling over the Ikea Kura bunk bed her best friend Jack got back when his folks were preparing for the birth of their second child, so we were all too happy to oblige.

After a trip to Ikea (where we got a crib and changing station for the nursery as well), we painted over the old mural of a castle on a hill that surrounded her toddler princess bed and Kevin (my husband who is so very understanding and patient with my ever expanding home improvement projects) assembled her new bunk bed.


She seems pretty happy with it :)

The next step was to create the stencil which I did with a pencil, exacto knife and piece of cardboard. I drew a single wave on the cardboard and cut it out using the exacto knife. Then I used a Picture Hanging Level (The Black & Decker Grip Level with Accu Mark) to measure the distance from the ceiling where I wanted the wave to reach and drew a pencil line for the tops of the highest waves.

After marking the wall where the top edge of the bed would line up I started the task of tracing my wave stencil for the top and then the lower waves.

My daughter was very enthusiastic about helping me get started painting…

…however she tired quickly and the rest was up to me.

After multiple coats of paint (I got a paint sample of the dark blue from Ace Hardware and used a bottle of acrylic paint I already had for the blue/gray) we left to go for a swim at the local indoor pool while we waited for it to dry. On the way home we stopped at JoAnne Fabrics and picked up a bunch of fish stickers (they had all of their scrapbooking stickers buy-one-get-one-50%-off!). Bringing the total project cost to $13 (not including the cost of the bunk bed, of course).


My daughter had a great time adding all of the fish to her new “aquarium” and even donned her Little Mermaid pjs for bed. Was it worth all the work? The look on her face says it all.


The LillsI have been working toward body acceptance for over twenty years. I am a 34 year old woman. I work full time as a research analyst and hold a master’s degree in education. I am a wife and mother of a 4 year old girl (as well as being 6 months pregnant with my son). I weigh a little over 250 lbs. and when I look in the mirror I like what I see. That was not always the case.

Like many of you I have been on a long hard journey of discovery with years of time spent on the slow agonizing task of nurturing my own previously non-existent self-esteem. I went to therapy, practiced meditation, worked toward removing myself from my ego, got tattoos on parts I was ashamed to show in public, talked to life coaches, and tried a seemingly endless array of diets, workout routines, hair styles, make-up and accessories all in an attempt to stop the all-encompassing self-hate that overwhelmed me every day!

However, my break through happened with the birth of my daughter. Here was a fresh new spirit. She was so filled with happiness and trust. I felt a deep and sinking sensation whenever I thought of this tiny and innocent child going out into the world to be berated by her culture, her peers and most importantly by herself! I read every parenting book I could find in hopes that some shred of guidance would cover how to prevent this, or at least give directions on how to best prepare her for the potentially harsh reality to come.

Inspiration came to me via the Love and Logic parenting system which encourages parents to teach through example. They advocate that by modeling a behavior you can teach your child its value. They discuss this in terms of potty training but it was just the push I needed to get started. As soon as she was walking and talking I began my conscious efforts to love myself and to be an example for her. When I was naked around her (if you are a parent you know it’s virtually impossible not to be from time to time) I refused to show her that I was ashamed of my body. When she asked me questions about my body I was open and honest with her, “Well, Mom has big boobs because I had a baby and boobies are used to feed babies.” Etc. I know that as she gets older we will have to talk more in depth about body image and what she sees in popular culture and at school. In the meantime, we talk about how there are different types of people: different shapes, colors, sizes, and abilities and they are all ok.

The part that I continue to struggle with is the self-hate I see and hear in others. At work and in public I consistently hear self-shaming comments as if they were normal and healthy banter. I actually sat in a meeting once where a female co-worker (a woman I continue to consider a friend) broke down into tears because she had gained 15 lbs. over the holiday break. My heart broke for her and still does. Such a beautiful woman, so funny and intelligent, is living in misery because of her inability to love her own body.

This time of year is the worst in my opinion. All of the “new year – new you” garbage is a form of cultural bullying in my personal opinion. I have several friends on Facebook who are admittedly “shaming” themselves into working out by taking “fat pictures” of themselves and posting their weight weekly. This is so hard for me that I often have to hide them and take a virtual break from our relationship because I find it so difficult to witness their self-inflicted suffering.

My New Years resolution is to go on loving my body and myself while being supportive of others who continue to suffer from terrible self-inflicted and crippling shame.

Be kind to others but, more importantly, be kind to yourself!


Hey Folks –

So, big changes are going on for me and I thought a little update would be appropriate. Firstly, I have a new job! I am now a Satisfaction Research Analyst (SRA) at ForeSee.com. I get to stay in the web-world while working with a multitude of clients and (similar to my work in SEO) I will be analyzing data and making actionable recommendations. The difference is the data will now come from the voice of customer and the recommendations will assist my clients in increasing customer satisfaction, which has been proven to lead to financial gains! This is very challenging and engaging work and I am super excited to begin this new leg of my career.

Secondly, we are EXPECTING! This May we will be welcoming a little baby boy to our family and Kevin is overjoyed to have another member of the boy-team to even out the hormone balance in our house. LOL

Baby Boy Lill

As always, if you need help with building a website, search engine optimization or social media I am here to help (as long as I’m not busy giving birth – but we’ve got some time before that happens). I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday! Wishing you all Joyful Tidings!
~ Jennifer Lill


It has been said that all of the good stories have already been told. I disagree. There are a few film-makers that take old and tired stores, wipe away the bad bits, add a twist or two, and make them new again. Here is a list of films (in no particular order) that I have really enjoyed over the years that received litte to no notoriety. If you are looking for something to order off of Netflix, give one of these gems a try:


The Merry Gentlemen
Directed by Michael Keaton, this film has some trouble finding it’s momentum at first. However, once the two main characters meet and start interacting with each other the watcher is treated to a well written and expertly acted film. A tender and dark drama about human relationships, The Merry Gentlemen reaches with a few of it’s sub-plots but overall has a deep seem of subtle feeling that can be extremely satisfying when done right.


The Winning Season
I have always, and will always, be a HUGE Sam Rockwell fan. He plays the entire spectrum from fun and flippant (Gentleman Broncos) to dark and psychological (Moon) with great ease and expert grace. In The Winning Season he plays a down on his luck alcoholic father who is estranged from his teenage daughter. This is well worn territory, to say the least. However, Rockwell does this role new found justice by breathing heart-breaking reality into the character. Yeah, he is a shitty guy, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good coach, and eventually, a good father. If you like your sports movies with a dash of reality check this one out!


Management
I’m not a big Jennifer Aniston fan, but she does have decent taste when it comes to independent films (see The Good Girl and Office Space). Steven Zahn is a rare comedic talent and in this film he displays his wonderful ability to mix well-meaning idiocy with adorable cluelessness. Its a rom-com, but a well done rom-com and those are rare!


No Such Thing
I have loved Sarah Polley since I first laid eyes on her in the movie Go. However, she is far out-acted in this film by Robert John Burke, who plays the monster. Like many independent monster movies, this films deals with the concept of having a purposeful life when that life lasts forever (see every vampire movie ever made). However, this one takes it a step further by making it’s main character a monster who is intelligent, well-read and completely fed up with our materialistic modern day society. I encourage you to pay special attention to the monster’s ranting monologues, they are an excellent example of truly good screen writing!


The Girl in the Café
With great performances from Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald this rom-com folds out in front of the unexpected backdrop of international political and economic policy debate at the G8 summit. Nighy’s rapidly aging public servent finds new life and political ambitions when he meets a beautiful young lady who has yet to feel the grind of the proverbial political policy wheel. This is great thinking couple’s date night movie!


Lo
You should watch this one just to be amazed at what an independent movie can do with a bit of monster makeup and a lot of lighting tricks. Imagine a ‘Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy summons Demon to get Girl back’. No, can’t imagine that, watch Lo. You won’t regret it!


Well I, like most other women on the web, have discovered Pinterest and fallen deeply and madly in love. You may have noticed that I have a pinterest feed on the right panel of my blog now and it’s inspired me to get crafting, making, doing again. Today’s project was inspired by this Do It Yourself Goal List post from Cornflower Blue Studio.

In my house it seems like a very large undertaking, every two weeks, when we have to plan the grocery shopping list and subsequent meals for the coming weeks. My husband and I sit down with a few pieces of note paper and attempt to hammer out a meal list that is easy, cheap and, most importantly, not boring. When I saw the Goal List on Pinterest my creativty was sparked and I thought of a perfect way to make this chore much more easy and fun!

I picked up a pack of colored post it notes and used a few of my daughter’s coloring supplies to create the following:


I have decided to take a brief respite from digital marketing on my blog (as I do from time to time) to talk to you dear readers about a topic equally close to my heart: BBC Mini-Series & Masterpiece Classics. As Netflix is all to ready to tell me, I am a fan of “Dramatic British Mini-Series with Strong Female Leads”, and therefore am just as in love with Downton Abbey as the rest of the country!

However, I think most people are ignorant of the vast and titillating back-catalog available from the BBC of equally wonderful programming. To help guide you, I have picked a handful of my favorites and summarized them below:

North & South
By far, this one is my favorite. The story of a strong young woman forced to face a sudden down-grade in lifestyle when her father loses his position with the Church of England. Previously sheltered in a luxurious country home, she finds herself in a city filled with urban decay and awakened to the heart-breaking plight of the poor and struggling factory worker. However, when she goes up against the factory owner, she discovers that there are two sides to every story and falls hard for a man she can’t stand. Plus, let’s face it, Richard Armitage is HOT!!

Garrow’s Law
Although my husband loves to make fun of the giant bow in poor William Garrow’s hair, even he enjoys this series about how one man had such a major impact on our current day legal system. He acted as counsel for the accused and was the first to introduce the concept of ‘innocent until proved guilty’ at London’s Old Bailey. Intertwined with a delicious and estranged love affair with Lady Sarah, this still-running series is a must see in my book!

Cranford
This is a cozy little story about two miserly old women who take on a distant cousin several decades their junior. Throughout this series you meet each and every member of the small hamlet of Cranford and feel as if they are your own neighbors. Be sure to watch “Return to Cranford” (season 2) which will give you an update on all of the characters a few years later!

Lark Rise to Candleford
If you are fan of Mr. Bates on Downton Abbey, be sure to see Brendan Coyle in his role as the proud, quick-tempered and yes, sexy, Robert Timmins on Lark Rise to Candleford. This series portrays the saga of a Post-Mistress in a small town that is suddenly thrown into the industrial age. This is another great series and I can assure you that if join in on the lives of this small group of people struggling to survive with dignity and grace in 19th century Oxfordshire, you will not be disappointed.

Bleak House
By far the darkest of the series I have listed here, but well worth the watch. Gillian Anderson is magnificent as Lady Dedlock in this adaptation of the famous Charles Dickens novel. This tale of the injustices of the 19th-century English legal system is utterly mesmerizing!

I could tell you about MANY more, but I’ll stop here for now. As always feel free to leave me questions or feedback in the comments and I hope everyone enjoys the final episode of Season 2 of Downton Abbey on Sunday as much as I know I will!