About Carol

Carol Shwanda chronicles her blended family's lives and experiences offering hope, guidance, wisdom, inspiration and humor to anyone who is in or about to enter into a blended family.

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I would like my blog to be a forum for my readers to share their stories and experiences and express their views and opinions about being a part of a blended family. I am working on a book tentatively titled:Blended Family Stories. It will be an in depth look at the real life challenges and joys of successful blended families. If you would like to be part of my research I'd love to hear from you.Take my Blended Family survey

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Seaweed Art Cards
  • Published on July 31, 2012

    Eva is on her way back from France today and her flight should be landing in Chicago any minute. She has a four hour lay over, will clear customs and then catch her connecting flight to San Francisco later this afternoon. She was gone six weeks, had a whirlwind trip, visited the Eiffel Tower twice, saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, traveled to Versailles and then to Spain for the final two weeks of the trip.

    She almost didn’t make it home.

    Yesterday, around 3pm, she sent a frantic Facebook message telling us she was out of money and did not have the funds to purchase a train ticket from Barcelona back to France for her flight home. Oy.  (How she let this happen and did not keep track of her expenses is an issue I will address with her when she returns.)

    I was frantic. Wiring money would not get there in time. Her father is the one who handles adding money to her TravelEx card, but he was unavailable for three hours with his cell phone turned off, watching a play.(Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Go see it!) I learned that the only way to add “instant” money to TravelEx card was to drive to San Jose, usually a 30 minute drive from our house, to the TravelEx store in the mall to add the funds in person. I finally reached her dad at 5:45 and he drove, frantically, through beach traffic, and arrived at the store just as it was closing. He convinced them to reopen the store for him and he was able to add the money. Whew! What a dad.

    My heart just started beating again.

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  • Published on July 13, 2012

    Since I recently planted an herb and wild flower garden at my home, I have renewed an old hobby that fits right in with my current past time of pressing seaweed. I press flowers and herbs and use them to decorate glass olive oil bottles. It is a very relaxing and calming ritual for me and I would like to share my creations with you. They are available for sale on Esty and make lovely and unique gifts.

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  • Published on June 19, 2012

    Eva left for France this morning.

    My oh my.

    What a sophisticated, polished and poised young lady she has become, dressed in her cute sundress, gold slip ons, hair in a neat chignon. Aside from her North Face jacket, she could pass for a Parisian.

    And what a relaxed, calm and less emotional mother I have become. After her trip last summer to Spain where she had her passport stolen and was stranded unchaperoned in Madrid overnight when her flight home was canceled, you could say I have been “initiated.” I was much more at ease this time around and it was reassuring that Eva is not traveling alone. She is escorted by her friend and her older sister who is attending college in Tours.

    Yesterday was Eva’s 16th birthday and we celebrated in typical American teenager fashion with waffles for dinner followed by a cookie dough ice cream cake. And to think tomorrow she may be dining on escargot and eclairs. She will be gone for six weeks. When she comes home, her life will never be the same. How can you keep the kid down home in Santa Cruz after she’s seen Paris?

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  • Published on June 13, 2012

    This past week was Sophia’s birthday and to celebrate, my sister Jill and I took the girls to San Francisco for the day for a girl trip. First we headed to Chinatown for Dim Sum.

    Dim Sum in Chinatown

    Then some shopping at Union Square, followed by a tour of the Jean Paul Gautier exhibit at the de Young museum.

    Jean Paul Gautier Wetsuit

    We ended our day at the Japanese Tea Garden, which has become a bonding blended family girl tradition. We had a blast. I couldn’t help but feel that the three girls have truly bonded and are now sisters. We’ve come a long way.

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  • Published on May 13, 2012

    Mother’s Day for me is often a mixed bag of emotions. I’m lucky that I get to celebrate with my own children who are now at the age of mastering breakfast. Today’s morning feast included waffles made from scratch, bacon and fresh strawberries. A big improvement over the runny eggs and cold toast they often served to me when they were little. Although this is a joyful occasion, I often reflect back and reminisce about my own mother who died 7 years ago and how much I miss her and wish I could be with her. In honor and celebration of what a great mother she was, I’m dedicating this blog post to her and all the wonderful wisdom, advice and guidance she imparted to me over the years. Below is a snippet of her most quotable quotes followed by one of my favorite stories about her.

    How Hard Can it Be?

    “How hard can it be?” This question was actually  a confidence boosting reassurance from my mother whenever I felt overwhelmed or challenged by a seemingly unattainable goal or daunting task. This was my mother’s way of saying that things aren’t always as hard as they seem and that I should be giving myself a lot more credit for my abilities. She also advised me to always wear sunscreen and to never leave the house without lipstick.

    (This is my favorite story about my mother. I’m off to have tea with my girls. Enjoy!)

    The Underwear Story

    I took my daughters to buy bras at Victoria Secret yesterday. They begged me. Believe me, I didn’t want to go. I don’t approve of the whole push up bra/thong scene, particularly for young girls. They insisted they have the best “I’ll-die-if -I-don’t-have-them-bras” so I relented on the condition that they select from my preapproved choices. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they did indeed have a reasonable and tasteful assortment of styles and we had a really fun time shopping. Several hundred dollars later (I picked up a few too.) we headed over to Starbucks for a some lattes and some mother/daughter girl talk at which time I told them what has become known in my family as “The Underwear Story”. Read more…

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  • Published on May 11, 2012

    I am very pleased and proud to announce that my SeaweedArt has been featured in SeaWeb’s Ocean Voices. I was interviewed last week and it was extremely gratifying to me because it really helped me articulate my mission. Ocean cleanup and marine preservation are very important to me and I am so happy that SeaWeb has helped raise my voice to a much larger audience.

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  • Published on May 7, 2012

    I flew up to Portland on Friday to help Sophia pack up her dorm room, put some of her belongings in storage and lug the rest her stuff home in four large suitcases. We managed to accomplish this in under two hours, which gave us a a lot time to hang out in her empty dorm room eating the sandwiches and snacks I packed and reflect on her first year away from home in college. We talked about all kinds of things, but mostly about her academics and I couldn’t help but beam with pride at her continued intellectual growth and development this past year.

    Paul was delayed in picking us up from the airport due to traffic. Since we had time to kill, I gave Sophia some money to buy a magazine thinking she would come back with a copy of People that I would surreptitiously read over her shoulder because I just love to hear all about those Kardashians (sarcasm). Instead, I was surprised to see her return with a copy of the Economist. As if reading my thoughts she explained, “I know, the Economist. It cost $7 bucks, but I just couldn’t bear to read one more thing about Khloe Kardashian’s baby weight. By the way, do you get the New York Times?”

    Our college girl is home.

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  • Published on April 25, 2012

    "image of pressed flowers on bottles"I’ve written a lot lately about how I am “getting my groove back” so to speak now that the kids have either moved out of the house or are so independent they really don’t want us around. Paul and I are approaching the empty nest phase of our lives quite rapidly and with relish. We’ve spent the last few weekends cleaning up the yard and planting a garden and I am so thrilled to have the time and energy once again to devote to a long neglected passion. I love to cook with fresh herb and vegetables from my garden, but I also like to create art with pressed flowers.

    Before I married Paul I used to have a business decorating glassware– bottles and wine glasses, with pressed flowers. I mentioned to Paul that I would like to get back into again, not as a business, but more but as a creative outlet. I could sell them on Etsy, where I’m currently selling my original pressed seaweed art. It is obvious that I love to press things as keepsakes in order the capture the sometimes fleeting nature of the natural world.

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  • Published on April 21, 2012

    One more photo in the continued series of snap shots of deer that I capture along the campus of UCSC where I work. They always bring me a sense of peace and serenity. I love where I work. Happiness and contentment on the job are so important. As I was snapping this picture a woman walked by and I remarked that it never ceases to amaze me to see so many deer strolling among the humans. She agreed and she’s been working on campus for 20 years.

    "image of three deer eating grass"

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  • Published on April 17, 2012

    "image of brown seaweed"I’m so excited because I just launched the next phase of my SeaweedArt business with my SeaweedArt prints. Ocean conservation and my love of the sea are two of my greatest passions, and to be able to express this love through my art is so gratifying and rewarding to me. I just finished reading a book on this very topic (which I will review in a separate blog post) that states the need to immerse oneself in creative activities because it keeps your mind engaged and is the source of true happiness and contentment. So true. If I could not express my inner creativity, I could never be happy.

    Please visit SeaweedArt and let me know what you think. Ten percent of the profits from the sale of my SeaweedArt note cards and prints will be donated to ocean conservation.

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