Are you ready for the empty nest?


Dear Readers,

Yes, it’s still summer, but for many families it’s a time of flux—if your offspring are heading off to their first year of college, you’re probably wondering what it’ll be like, how you’ll cope, and what your new role will be.

It’s a huge life transition, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You’ve spent the better part of the past two decades raising this person, teaching him or her how to cope with life…and now that they’re about to leave, there’s often a feeling of panic. Will they be able to deal with all the new challenges that independence brings?

And what about you? You’ve invested a huge part of yourself in being a parent. How will that change when your kids are no longer living under your roof? How will this huge transition affect your sense of self, your relationship with your partner, your sense of place in the world?

Big changes are afoot, and you’re right to be thinking in terms of “now what do I do?”

To help you prepare, emotionally and in practical terms, we’ve put together a list of blog posts on life just before, during, and after the empty nest. From Jackie DeMuro’s musings about this last summer with her daughter at home, to Sharon Greenthal on the emotional realities of the too-quiet house, to Carpool Goddess on what to buy for your kid who’s moving into a college residence…and yes, even a couple of our posts—one on what it’s like when they leave for good, and one on making a plan when your child has a chronic illness—we’re pretty sure you’ll find what you need here.

Like all our Saturday lists, this one is made on Listly, so you can vote items up or down, add comments, and even add posts of your own, or from other sites, you think should be part of the list. In fact, we hope you do!

On your way to the empty nest

KarenWendy Irving On your way to the empty nest

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  1. 1. Being Comfortable with the Quiet of an Empty Nest

    Being Comfortable with the Quiet of an Empty Nest

    One of the most challenging things when your kids leave home is being comfortable with the quiet of an empty nest. Despite a fundamentally good marriage, there are hours...days...sometimes longer when my husband and I don't have much to say to each other.

  2. 2. Yarn and an empty nest

    Yarn and an empty nest

    I wandered into a yarn store the other day. I had no business in there, really. I don't knit and it's been at least 30 years since I crocheted anything. But it was so inviting. Out of nowhere, I was struck with thoughts of my kids who are all busily, productively, living their lives.

  3. 3. Making Ghandi Proud

    Making Ghandi Proud

    I was so happy when my daughter, the always delightful Fangette, graduated from high school last week. Finally. All the bullshit was over. Or, so I thought. She's home this summer. She's working here and there at her movie theater job, but she's home more than she's not home.

  4. 4. Empty Nest: the final stage? - After the Kids Leave

    Empty Nest: the final stage? - After the Kids Leave

    Dear Karen, I've been giving some thought to your letter last week about the revolving door of the empty nest. As you enter one stage, I seem to be exiting, so I feel 100% qualified to tell you what you have to look forward to in the next year, after she Rachel graduates: She will leave one day, suitcases packed, perhaps a U-Haul idling in the drive with all her furniture, and she will not come back.

  5. 5. Kids Going to College: Getting Your Heart and Head Ready

    Kids Going to College: Getting Your Heart and Head Ready

    Lisa writes: When we published a post last summer about our kids going to college, we thought we had missed a most important moment and had one only chance left, when our youngest leave. We were wrong. Parenthood has two big transitions, when our children arrive and when they leave.

  6. 6. Am I Over Empty Nest? Who Am I Kidding...

    Am I Over Empty Nest? Who Am I Kidding...

    My son Rob surprised me last weekend. Showed up Friday night when my husband and I were out having dinner, about to go the fantastic Artosphere Symphony. I became a mess. Crying. Introduced him to the waiter. " This is my son. He works in Conway. I didn't know he was coming ".

  7. 7. Empty Nest: Life Beyond Parenting - Now What?

    Empty Nest: Life Beyond Parenting - Now What?

    Right now, in homes across the country, college acceptance letters are sitting on kitchen tables. Your own children may be deciding where to go to college. Excitement is high, but the reality is also bittersweet. Why? You know that there will be an empty chair at the table.

  8. 8. Shopping for College & Getting Ready For Move In Day - Carpool Goddess

    Shopping for College & Getting Ready For Move In Day - Carpool Goddess

    Congratulations, your child is going to college! Now you must face the task of shopping for the dorm room. It is a special time for parents and their college bound kids and a wonderful opportunity for more bonding as they're headed out the door.

  9. 9. Health crises and the college student - After the Kids Leave

    Health crises and the college student - After the Kids Leave

    Dear Wendy, Well, Rachel's departure for college didn't go exactly as planned. We'd intended to set out on Sunday around noon, take a leisurely drive down Highway 401 (hahaha...

  10. 10. Advice For Parents Facing An Empty Nest

    Advice For Parents Facing An Empty Nest

    When stay-at-home mom Sharon Greenthal's youngest child left for college nearly four years ago, she decided to grab life by the horns and reinvent herself. She talks about the opportunities for parents once their kids fly the coop.

View more lists from KarenWendy Irving

Have a great weekend, and catch you tomorrow for our weekly video roundup,


Karen and Wendy

No BlogHer for us…again!

Dear Readers,

Well, another year has come and gone, and it’s time for us not to go to BlogHer again.

You might recall (if you’ve been paying attention) that we managed to not go last year. Instead, we created our own home-made Big Bloggy Extravaganza. Here are some highlights:

Opening night at not-BlogHer

Upon arrival in our sumptuous suites (Wendy’s upstairs study, Karen’s office/wool storage room) we sat around drinking margaritas, painting our own toenails, and toasting one another while chatting on Facebook.

In fact, we noticed that the halls of one of our favourite Facebook groups were almost empty, so we went over there and held a rather long and somewhat incoherent conversation, just the two of us. It did get a little echo-y, and at one point we swear we heard crickets chirping, but we persevered.

This might have had something to do with the margaritas.

This year we’re thinking of changing it up: instead of hanging out on Facebook groups and watching the tumbleweeds roll past, we’re thinking of hitting the Twitter. You’ll find us there under the hashtag #NotBlogHer14…and it’ll be totally BYO Jello shots and toenail polish.

Friday morning freebies!

On Friday, we decided to hit the virtual Exhibits Hall, where we encountered our first swag of the conference.

“Swag!!1!” We squee!-d in unison.

Wendy generously put together a Selfridges bag loaded with a lint brush (genuine lint still attached), a half-used mustard bottle, a cat satellite collar, paper towel and some paper flowers made by Wendy’s daughter 18 years ago, as a winnable giveaway.

She photographed the whole thing on Instagram, and said it would go to the first attendee to claim it. By sheer coincidence, this happened to be Karen, who was thrilled to bits.

Freebies this year? We had to wrack our brains, but here’s what we decided: we’ll have a draw, and the lucky winner will get a smooch on the lips from our intrepid and much-maligned mascot, Buckminster K. Beaver. Bucky is totally up for this…he loves smooches.


If he’s good enough for the courtiers at Kensington Palace, he’s good enough for you!

And just because Karen’s daughter Rachel calls him “creepy” is no reason to turn your nose up. He’s really very sweet, once you get to know him. Come on, give a beaver a break!

Friday afternoon seminar

Last year….

Karen decided to present her award-winning seminar, “Laughing Our Guts Out: Fame and Fortune via Insane Childhood Reminiscences.” It was a huge hit, even though attendance was a bit sparse. To fill the seats, we rounded up our faithful animal companions—Maydeleh the loyal sheltie, Lyra and Blue the adorable ragdoll cats, Ralph the Siamese, and Stella the tabby.

The audience barked and/or meowed enthusiastically throughout her presentation, though, so Karen felt very appreciated.


“Yeah, yeah, whatever. We were promised cookies. Where are the cookies?”

We Instagrammed them, and now they have 492 followers—approximately 300 more than we have.

After the seminar, we decided to hit the trade show floor. Since we couldn’t make it to McCormick Place, we decided to do the next best thing: cruise the aisles of the largest grocery stores in our respective cities, waving our martini glasses in the air and yelling, “Fill ‘er up, Joe, we need another drinkie!”

To simulate the experience even more fully, we randomly sampled delicacies from the stores’ shelves…that is, until the managers apprehended us and threatened to ban us from their establishments for life.



“I know this is the fruit department, make me another daquiri, stat!”

How could we top this?

Oooh, tricky. We had to think hard, but we decided it was Wendy’s turn to give the Saturday keynote, and Karen’s turn to applaud.

And that’s why Wendy will be giving a talk titled, “Drunk on Aisle 3: The Hidden Perils of Getting Sloshed in the Grocery Store.

We know many bloggers will be riveted by her story of personal sacrifice and the extraordinary ends to which she was willing to go, just to get fodder for our blog readers. She really is a trouper, if she does say so.

We tried to get the arresting officer to contribute, but he hung up when he heard who was calling. We can’t think why—we offered him a byline, and everything. People are strange.

The private party!

We’d heard that all the really cool bloggers were hosting private parties in their hotel suites, so we both took a bottle of our favourite cough syrup and locked ourselves in our own bathrooms. We donned party hats, toasted one another via webcam, and threw shredded toilet paper round the room. In lieu of confetti, you know.

To liven things up, we decided to hire a male stripper. Okay, actually this was just Ralph, and he didn’t strip so much as lie on the floor and beg for tummy rubs. But he was male.

Okay, he was formerly male.


Hang onto your garters, ladies–we have a special act coming up! Yes, it’s the one, the only Raphonzo the Magnificent!

For this year’s private party, we’re thinking of making it extra private: it’ll likely involve Skype, funny hats, and cough syrup. We can say no more, because then we’d have to invite everyone. You really can’t be too exclusive when it comes to this kind of thing. Sorry, but we must maintain standards.

All wonderful things must come to an end

Did we mention that before we left on our Virtual Bloggy Extravaganza, we scoured our wardrobes for just the right outfits to bring along?

As everyone knows, these Big Bloggy Blasts are all about the wardrobe…and the manicures, pedicures, haircuts, chin lifts, brow tweezings, and Spanx. Don’t forget the Spanx.

We wanted to really capture the spirit of the thing, so every hour on the hour we’d drop whatever we were doing and run back to our rooms to change outfits. Yes, it was stressful at first, but really, what price beauty? And of course, we had to Instagram each wardrobe change, because…well, just because. It’s what you do.


This meant that by the time the Saturday night gala rolled around, we were well nigh exhausted. But we’re troupers, so we retired to our rooms for a quick blink of shut-eye, a relaxing bath, and then one final change of outfits.

That’s when tragedy struck.

We opened our suitcases and realized, to our everlasting horror, that we had run out of clothes. What to do, what to do? We fired up our webcams and put our heads together to come up with a plan. And here’s what we decided: the only outfits we hadn’t already worn on the conference floor were our dressing gowns…so we decided to unilaterally declare that the gala would be a pyjama party.


Clad in dressing gowns, fuzzy slippers, and clutching our cocktail glasses firmly in our right hands, we sallied forth, heads held high.

Of course, we’ve learned from last year’s experience.

As much fun as that impromptu gala PJ party was, Karen got a little carried away with the cough syrup, and Wendy kept losing the tie on her robe…things got a little strange by the end, and we’re thinking it’s a good thing the memories have blurred with time.

This time, we think we’ll just unilaterally declare that the entire Great Bloggy Non-BlogHer Extravaganza should have a firm dress code: pyjamas only, from start to finish. Yoga pants may be worn, but that’s as formal as we’re willing to get.

Now, who’s with us? Come on, don’t be shy! You know you want to….


Karen and Wendy (and Bucky)


Kate Middleton, give my style back!

Dear Karen,

This week, I became a trend-setter.  Kate Middleton,  the Duchess of Cambridge, copied my style and may I be so bold as to say, it suits her.  I just wish she’d asked before going out and buying my dresses.  I mean, what if we were at the same party, in the same dress?  I’d hate to see her embarrassed like that, knowing she couldn’t compete with the likes of me.

So awkward.

In November, 2012, I wrote to you about a fabulous dress designer in London, Suzannah Crabb.  I was new in town and in need of a suitable frock to wear to Ascot Ladies Day.

I bought some of her stunning tea dresses, the styles of which are inspired by 1930s women’s fashion. Suzannah sees a style she particularly likes and adapts it to fit and suit women of the 21st century, using fabric she develops and sources in Italy. Most of the pieces in her collection are made in England; I love the idea that my dress is organic and locally made.

See how switched-on I was, and am?

It’s a safe bet that the Duchess read my letter to you on that fortuitous day in November (I believe she’s our biggest fan) and had a light bulb moment.  No doubt it went something like this:

Oh my goodness gracious, Wendy likes this Suzannah?  I must immediately hasten to her intimate little boutique and purchase everything Wendy did; let us away, James, and don’t spare the horses!

And she went out and bought everything in the shop, including the dress she wore this week, as shown in the Daily Mail.   To see it, click here.  Her green Budding Heart Silk Tea Dress is identical to my Red Heart Silk Tea Dress.


Here I am, 2 years ahead of the Duchess.


Oh, Kate, you little copycat!

And that’s not all.  Last year, I bought a coat from Suzannah, in her new digs in New Quebec Street, Marylebone.  Within a month, Kate’s younger, perky-bottomed sister Pippa, went out and purchased it, in cream.  She said it was for her to wear to her royal nephew’s christening, but I think it’s all just a ruse.  You can see my coat on Pippa in the Daily Mail article, above.

It’s time the world realised:  I’m a fashion maven.

Still, you’d think Kate and Pippa would send me a thank-you or two, for sending them in the right direction, sartorially.

Oh well.


Modelling one of Suzannah’s Tea Dresses. Again, same style, just different pattern.

I have a very warm feeling that we’re going to be seeing more and more of this talented designer.

When I wrote that, I didn’t think I’d be seeing more and more of Suzannah on the backs of royalty.

I had no idea that my post, and indeed my modelling of Suzannah’s clothing out and about in London, would cause the lovely Kate to follow my style lead with such fawnlike devotion.

I’m generous though, and refuse to hold a grudge.  I do think a hamper from Fortnum & Mason would be a nice gesture on her part, just to show her appreciation for all my help.

Now I see she’s dressing George in the same clothes I’ve been buying for my grandson.  Honestly, Kate.  Must you steal all my ideas?


Awesome Advice Central: The incompetent chef

Dear Awesome Advice Central,

alt="IMAGE-incompetent-chef-more-cabbage-after-the-kids-leave"Hi, I’m kind of in a rush today because this total moron keeps harassing me, telling me it’s my duty to write him a letter of reference.  He says that because he used to work for me, I need to write something and do it quickly, so he can start applying for a new job. He’s saying that if I don’t, he could sue me for discrimination or something.

Here’s the thing:  I fired him last month.

I don’t like him.  He was incompetent.  A knucklehead.  A shit disturber.

And I don’t wanna write him a letter, because what if someone hires him based on what I say?  I can’t bear to write something horrible about him, even though I’m totally tempted to.

So what I’d like is help in writing this blasted thing.  If I tell you the bullet points, would you translate it to something that looks and sounds positive, without me actually having to lie?


Okay, some background.  I’m in charge of the crew on a private yacht.  This guy was the chef on board. Here are the facts:

  • He was an incompetent chef. A terrible cook. Everything that came out of his kitchen tasted of rancid oil and/or vinegar. Even the desserts.
  • He was asked to cook fresh, Mediterranean food but instead cooked Polish cuisine each night.  Yep, cabbage and kielbasa. Every. Single. Night.
  • Every day he could be found in the kitchen, on the phone with his girlfriends (yes, that’s right, girlfriends plural) with earbuds plugged in so he couldn’t hear when we spoke with him.
  • He was lazy, never adhered to hygiene standards, and our ship’s kitchen was nearly closed by the health inspectors while he was in charge.
  • He never showed up for a single lifeboat drill.
  • He was argumentative and got into plenty of fights on board and on shore.
  • He lied on his CV, claiming to know the cuisines of the world.  He also claimed he was a recent graduate of a famous cooking school and that he’d interned for Gordon Ramsay.
  • He hit on all the females on board.  Age didn’t seem to matter.  If they had a pulse, he was game.

He’s asked me 3 times now for references, and I’m feeling cornered here.  I want future employers to know what they’re getting if they hire this joker, but I also don’t want to seem rude.

Please help!  Please say you can help!

Captain C. Gull

Text separatorDear Captain Gull,

We’d be only too delighted to help—in fact, we fancy ourselves rather the HR specialists, as we’ve been through so many pool boys over the years. We agree, writing letters of reference is a tricky business: while you don’t wish to offend, neither do you wish to lie. At least, not much.

All right, here’s what we’ve come up with:

To whomever might be fortunate enough to wish to hire our former chef: Congratulations!

Curly Pete, as he likes to be known, is an outstanding employee in many respects. As chief cook and bottle-washer aboard the SS Kerplunk, he fed our guests a never-ending stream of cabbage and kielbasa—always emphasizing that this was a healthy diet, rich in fat, micronutrients, and fibre. Gradually, our guests grew accustomed to the taste of aged oil and cabbage drippings, and by the time they were ready to put ashore, they were effusive in their praise for Curly Pete’s creations.

“How does he get a chocolate torte to taste of cabbage?” they’d enquire, wide-eyed. “It has really helped with my diet—I’m sure I’ve lost at least 10 pounds on this trip alone!”

His internship with Gordon Ramsay seems to have had little to no effect on his cooking style, which remains quite singular. In a class by itself, you might say.

Curly Pete is a renowned and enthusiastic heterosexualist, who regaled passengers and crew alike with tales of his antics both onboard and ashore. In fact, the phrase, “girl in every port” might have been invented just for him. Actually, he extended his bonhomie and joie de vivre to the ladies onboard, as well. No matter how elderly or frail, he loved ‘em all!

As he used to say, “You can’t keep a good man down!”

Of course, this led to much giggling amongst the womenfolk, who treated Curly Pete’s advances much as one might greet those of an enthusiastic puppy with poor bladder control. They’d run along the decks, screaming and squealing (in delight, no doubt); the poor souls who had to use walkers or canes were left to fend for themselves, but it was all in good fun, what? Excellent for morale.

When we held lifeboat drills, Curly Pete would gallantly excuse himself—he could usually be found in his bunk, and when pressed on the matter, said, “Give the old birds my spot—they need it more than I do. Lifeboat drills are for losers.” Then, in a display of bravery, he’d take a hefty swig from his rum bottle, and belch loudly. Such a gentleman!

As you can imagine, I was devastated to lose this treasure of a man: his colourful, relaxed style brought a certain je ne sais quoi to our little vessel, and we’re sure the paternity suits will be settled in due course, leaving Curly Pete free to work with you!

Best of British luck,

Yours sincerely, etc,

Awesome Advice Centralalt="IMAGE-awesome-advice-central-logo-after-the-kids-leave""

A weekend visit to Denmark

Dear Karen,

This weekend, while you were breaking your back, I was in Denmark, attending a 90th birthday party.

Since living in Europe, one of our greatest joys is the ability to travel 90 minutes and be in a totally different country and culture.  Having family only an hour and a half away is such a blessing.

We drove from Copenhagen to Grindsted, in Jylland (Jutland), where Lars was born.  We paid a visit to the graveyard outside Grindsted Kirke, where grandparents and parents reside.  It’s a beautiful site, very peaceful, and well maintained.


We got married here in 1984 and our eldest was christened here as well, in 1986.

I get a great kick out of the signs here.  In their original Danish, they’re quite normal and sensible.  However, if spoken in English, they’re stupidly funny.


Danish: periodic speed control.  English: periodic fart control.

We were staying with family at the summerhouse on the west coast.  The summerhouse has been in the family since the early 1900s, and was occupied by the Germans in World War 2.  Concerned that the allies would attacking Europe through Denmark, they closed down Vejers and turned it, along with the summerhouse, into a German military zone.  Officers commandeered our house and they didn’t take very good care of it.  There was a pot-bellied stove inside, which they used to burn every bit of available wood possible, to keep them warm in the winters.


Building on a sandy hill: not always the easiest thing to do. Also note the outhouse on the right.


The patio is now the living room.  The outhouse is now indoors, finally.  I love how formally dressed the men are.  It’s a beach, fellas, not an office!


The house expands to fit a growing family.


How it looked when I first visited.


Our morning view – can you guess which room we’re in?


Nordliden today: comfortable, cosy, hyggelig (that word that no Dane can ever adequately translate into English). We love it.

Once the war was over, the summerhouse went back into family hands and, with each generation, repairs and renovations occurred within and without.

One thing no one counted on, though, was the strong winds and sand, creating 10 metre high dunes to the west of the house.  At one time, one could stand in the house and view the North Sea.  Even in my 30 years of visiting, I can sense those damn dunes getting higher and higher with each visit.  It’s great exercise tromping up and down for a morning and evening swim.


Lars’ mother and aunts on the beach, with Nordliden in the background.



So where’s the house gone? Each year, this dune gets higher.

Each morning, someone rises with the sun and bikes or walks to the local baker, where bread is bought for the breakfast table.  This weekend, Lars and I took on the job.  We ordered rolls called rundstykker (rolls, literally translated as “round pieces”), wienerbrød (in Denmark, they call it Viennese pastry), franskbrød (white bread) and rugbrød (rye bread). When it came time to pay, we discovered we didn’t have enough money.  The woman serving us shrugged her shoulders, handed us the receipt, and told us to come back later to pay, no rush.

We were back within 30 minutes, but still, we liked her attitude.


Breakfast:  first course.


A Danish breakfast table is not for the faint-hearted: boiled eggs, breads, cheese, Nutella, honey, coffee and hot milk. It’s hard to control your eating when faced with this in the morning.

The birthday party was a huge success, celebrated in a nice hotel in the countryside.  I’m embarrassed to say, I was more tired at the end than the birthday girl, who was in no mood to see her party come to a close.

We drove back to Nordliden with more family members, and we enjoyed the setting sun while eating Danish pizza and drinking Italian wine.


I wasn’t the least bit hungry…until the pizza arrived.


The sun sets on a very happy day.

The following morning, it was time for us to return to London.  We said good-bye to our family and Nordliden with love in our hearts and a strong determination to never eat again stay longer next time.



Early morning swim before breakfast.


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