Driver’s Ed and My Teen Driver

VW bug on the road

I’m on to teen driver #2! While embracing this milestone moment has been a bit easier the second time around, it has conjured up a new set of worries. Back when Julia got her driver’s license in 2017, I was overwhelmed with the idea of letting go.

On-Road Anxiety

This time, I’m more emotionally prepared. The one thing I’ve struggled with, however, is the on-roads. These are the lessons when an instructor picks up the teen driver, either from home or school, and tests their on-road abilities.

Now, as I’m guessing any parent of a teen would agree, I’m eternally grateful to these instructors. They take time and care honing our children’ skills behind the wheel. The problem is, I have no idea who these instructors are.

Who Are You and Where Are You Going with My Child?

When Julia first entered a Driver’s Ed vehicle, I helicoptered my way out to the driveway and introduced myself to her first instructor. Tony did the same for Ally – only because I begged him to. From then on, I have put blind faith in their future instructors.

This became increasingly unnerving with Ally because many of her lessons were at night. Julia’s were over the summer and all during the day. I suddenly realized that I had sent my precious baby off with a complete stranger, in the dark, driving to God knows where.

I couldn’t text her to see if everything was OK because, assuming all was going as planned, she was either observing another teen driver or she herself was driving.

It was a strange feeling considering I had never set eyes on most of her instructors and there is no way to reach anyone. The instructors don’t typically text the students to let them know they have arrived (some do, but not all). It’s up to the student to look out the window and head out when they see the car outside.

Instructor Information

So, here’s my thought – the folks at Driver’s Ed are doing great things. They take a whole lot of pressure off parents whose worst nightmare is to drive alongside their inexperienced teen. But, it would be nice to have instructor names, photos and qualifications available on the Driver’s Ed website. Additionally, when your child’s on-road schedule is set, it would be nice to know who is taking them out and how to contact them.

Yes, I know I sound like a total smother, but in this day and age a little extra information is not only nice, but necessary.

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The Pop-Up Art Gallery at Helen Thomas in Andover

A beautiful piece currently hanging in the Helen Thomas Pop-Up Art Gallery by Liz Auffant

When a door opens, go through it and make an art gallery. That’s what Lisa Schiavone, owner of Helen Thomas in Andover, did when the space formerly occupied by Circles of Wisdom became available.

Lisa has always had a love of art. Over the years, her gift and home décor store has shown more and more original artwork by local artists. Stephanie Mobbs-Deady’s signature cow creations and glitzy ladies cheerfully adorn the walls. The keen craftsmanship of Michele Boshar’s mixed media collages delight as onlookers discover the intricate details of her designs.

But, when the Circle of Wisdom space became available, Lisa wanted to do more. She had come to know a young artist by the name of Josh Hilty through Stephanie. Both Lisa and Stephanie admired his work and wanted to foster it. Together, Lisa, Josh, Stephanie and a team of artists transformed the space behind her retail store into a charming art gallery. It oozes with passion, creative energy and a shared love for original works of art.

On February 7th, the artists of Helen Thomas’s pop-up art gallery came together for a Valentine’s inspired reception…For the LOVE of ART & WINE. Toss in a little chocolate and it was a perfect night!

Step & Repeat

Upon entering, Emily O’Brien snapped photos of attendees in a fun photo booth/step & repeat. Delicious chocolates by Sweet Mimi’s were on hand to tempt and sample. Representatives from Scout & Cellar wine shared sips of their tasty organic blends.

Artist Stephanie Mobbs-Deady-left. Owner Helen Thomas Lisa Schiavone-right. You know who smack dab in the middle!

Be My Valentine!

The adorable Love Note wall simply made me smile as visitors were given the opportunity to tack up their own expressions of love.

wall of love notes at pop-up art gallery

The Pop-Up Art Gallery

The art gallery is a beautiful space to gather, be inspired and appreciate art in a fun and welcoming space. Be sure to check it out while the space is still full of amazing artwork. You may even get a glimpse of Josh working in the active studio space.

guest viewing art at pop-up art gallery
photo by Emily O’Brien

Don’t miss this wonderful art experience. Stop in anytime and follow Helen Thomas on Facebook to learn about the next gallery event. They are so much fun – I can’t wait!

Meet the Artists

Josh Hilty

-a passionate go-getter and talented artist who has taken the pop-up art gallery by storm. Josh’s art has depth and soul.

Liz Auffant

-a talented young artist, writer and free spirit with a flair for seeing through the rain.

Michele Boshar

-a creative communicator, Michele combines illustrations, text, paste and paint to create captivating and thoughtful pieces, each with a unique message (and yes, I want Michele’s piece shown here!)

Stephanie Mobbs-Deady

-a whimsical artist with a passionate heart. Her art is colorful and happy, just like Stephanie.

Debbie Shirley

-flash back to simpler times with the bold colors of Debbie Shirley’s art. Her renditions of retro diners, cars, motels and more will transport you in just the way a great piece of art should.

John Mulcahy

-a beautiful landscape artist, John’s work will bring the outdoors in.

Emily O’Brien

-a talented portrait and interiors photographer, Emily’s photos inside the pop-up gallery show her range and skill behind the lens.

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What the Scrunch? Scrunchies are Back!


Warning – Silly Post Alert!

Only to see it, is to believe it. The 1990s hair trend, I never thought would return, is back with a vengeance. Why do I know this? Well, in search of a pair of socks in my youngest daughter’s room, I stumbled across the drawer in the photo. An entire drawer dedicated entirely to scrunchies – who’d have guessed?

At first glance, I felt I’d been thrown back in time. But I can assure you, I never amassed a collection of scrunchies quite like this. I certainly noticed my daughter wearing them, but not so much that I imagined she’d have so many.

No worries-leave it to this nosy mom, to ask the tough questions. Without hesitation I reached out directly to Google – I’d never get a straight answer out of my 16-year-old. Low and behold scrunchies have made an epic comeback. On runways and beyond.

Scrunchie Specifics

This article from The Zoe Report explains the ins and outs of the scrunchies return and how high-end options in leather, velvet and animal prints are all the rage. Okay, I always understood the benefits of scrunchies over regular ponytail bands, in that they are gentler on the hair. Using a scrunchie reduces breakage and prevents the unsightly bend in hair that is often left behind when a ponytail band is used. But honestly, I’m not sure I’m appreciating the stylistic value of this once-upon-a-time hair holder. I’m thinking they are better left in the 90s.

Although the fashion blogs are saying scrunchies are for girls and ladies alike, I think they are better suited for the younger set. Little kids and teens just have the youthful exuberance to playfully pull off pretty much any look. However, if this is this case, I think some designers better rethink their scrunchie price points. $175 for a Luxe Leather scrunchie? Come on! I’m not buying it – literally or figuratively!






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Seasoned Pretzels from Karla’s Kitchen

With Super Bowl LIII coming up, I thought it would be a good time to post this recipe for an easy, yet addictive, crunchy snack. A crowd pleaser for sure!

I typically don’t enjoy pretzels because, and I don’t think this is a shocker, I find them dry and bland. However, when my sister Karla began serving her seasoned pretzels, I could not control myself. No sooner would I say done, then my hand would be right back in the bowl. When my Ally said she loved them too, I knew we were on to something. There’s not a lot of foods Ally loves.

Karla’s seasoned pretzels provide just the right amount of tang and crunch and to make them is soooo easy. When I first saw the simple recipe, I thought there was a step missing. Seeing that so much liquid was to be poured over the pretzels, I imagined I’d have to dry them out to achieve the dry, pretzel texture I was accustomed to.

Interestingly, the pretzels fully absorb the oil. When the pretzels have completed their overnight marinating process, you wake up to tasty, seasoned pretzels that are ready to serve.

Without further ado, I give you…

Karla’s Seasoned Pretzels

  • 40 ounce pretzels (I used 2, 16 ounce bags and it was fine)
  • 1 bottle Orville Redenbacher popcorn oil
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dry salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon dry dill
  • 1 tablespoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.

Empty pretzels into a 2-gallon sealable plastic bag.  In a bowl, mix all other ingredients and pour liquid over pretzels. Seal bag securely and mix well.  Flip bag every 15 minutes for an hour to distribute liquid.  Let sit overnight and your seasoned pretzels are good to go and go and go!

I hope you enjoy! GO PATS and thank you Karla for sharing your yummy recipe.

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REPOST: More Than a Headshot, Personal Brand Photography by Emily O’Brien

Emily is in full gear with her 2019 Personal Brand Photography Sessions – Get in touch with her now to learn how YOUR photos can best tell YOUR story!!!

Oscar and Beth on blu couch
My boy and my computer companion.


By now you may know the name Emily O’Brien as one of my favorite photographers. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Emily for many years and, more than a colleague, she is a friend whose talent never ceases to amaze me.

I’ve featured Emily’s photography in many of my posts. Our Instagram Field Trip to Giardini Di Sole was one of my favorites. As was our day at the Junior League of Boston Designer Show House.  When the time came for new headshots for Musing Mediterranean, I looked no further than Emily. The same is true for my Julia’s senior portraits, but I’ll save that post for another day.

Emily knows me well and puts me completely at ease. I mentioned wanting to take photos at home and Emily suggested we go a step beyond traditional headshots. She told me about Personal Brand Photography.

What Is Personal Brand Photography?

Emily has created this option for business people of all types who want strong images that give your brand a personality. They show people who you are as a business and what it’s like to work with you. Personal brand sessions start with a consultation to get to know your brand story. Sessions usually include headshots, lifestyle images to capture you in action, as well as details that cater to your specific business. Because the session is so customized to suit your brand, the types of images will vary from one business to another.

My Personal Brand Session

Personal Brand Photography was perfect for my purposes as I already had the idea of taking shots around my house using some of my favorite artwork as the backdrop. The more we talked about how this would work, the more I realized it was ideal. Personal Brand Photography gave me the flexibility to explore what I do as a freelance writer working from home, while revealing what inspires me creatively.

Let The Fun Begin!

Enter good friend and fashion stylist, Lysa Gibbs-Pelletier. Lysa helped style my clothing with the artwork and scenes we were shooting. Here’s a behind the scenes shot of the three of us getting silly over a mouth-watering plate of cupcakes as shared on Emily’s Instagram.

Follow Emily on Instagram

The Photos

At this point I’ll let the images speak for themselves. Here are some of my favorites shots. I can’t tell you what a great experience this was. It’s rare that the camera is turned on me, but it felt special to bring the focus on what I do and expressing that in photos was an interesting opportunity. It was reflective process that would not have been the same without Emily’s expertise.

headshot from personal brand photography session
This map was the perfect background for my travel book photo.
The more I read, the better I write.
Writing and my wall of pottery.
Color inspires me.


When I was asked to send in author photos for the book, I had a tough time choosing. Emily had captured my essence in a way I didn’t think possible.

If you are a business person looking for photos, Emily O’Brien’s Personal Brand Photography is a wonderful way to shine the spotlight on you and what you do.

Here’s What You Can Do With Your Images

  • Social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In. Social media posts that include an image receive 120-180% more visibility and engagement. Maximize your investment by creating a library of images to post new content.
  • Scattered throughout your website pages: Blogs, home page, about me, landing pages, sales pages, contact, etc.
  • Marketing pieces: Business cards, brochures, mailers, or other printed marketing materials.
  • Press releases, speaking engagements, email signature, anywhere you have the opportunity to show people what it would be like to work with you.

Contact Emily O’Brien Photography for more information on your Personal Brand Photography session.


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