Wanted: Modern-day Housecoat

Does anyone remember the housecoat?  The idea was borderline genius:  A simple, loose-fitting, above-the-knee dress with pockets.  Short sleeves for the spring/summer, long sleeves for the fall/winter.  Comfy and practical, perfect for wearing around the house.

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Housecoat sewing patterns from the 1960s.

My grandmother loved a housecoat and, like most women of her generation, wore one every day.  She had a collection that could rival the wealthiest of women, if wealthy women bought housecoats.  She received a new one every Christmas (long-sleeved) and for each birthday (short-sleeved).  Always in a floral print.  Always with a rounded collar.  Always with snaps in the front and patch pockets to hold her lipstick, a pencil and a pair of scissors.  The housecoat was her generation’s version of sweats:  Something easy and casual to wear around the house, most commonly without a bra.

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My grandma, c. 1970: Queen of the Housecoat.

I usually lounge in yoga pants, but during the summer I throw on a cheap, cotton sundress instead.  My go-to, “I’m-not-leaving-the-house-today-and-it’s-too-hot-to-wear-anything-tight” outfit is a kelly green, empire-waisted tank dress.  It works, but it’s no housecoat.  I recently searched online for a modern-day version, but all I found were silk robes, kimonos (neither of which work, by the way, because they slip open much too easily) and the exact same housecoats that my grandma wore forty-plus years ago:  Cotton/polyester blend dusters in old-lady floral prints with rounded collars and snap-front closures.  Not exactly fashion-forward.

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Believe it or not, this housecoat is available to buy today … in 2015!

So what’s a girl to do?  If I was a talented seamstress, I would make my own.  But I’m not, so instead I am issuing an open invitation to all fashion designers and retailers, from Versace to Target, Neiman Marcus to Old Navy, to get on board with my 2015 housecoat movement.  We need a modern version NOW.  It should be simple and washable.  Something updated and fashionable, in both neutral colors and bold patterns.  Something figure flattering and form-fitting, but not too tight.  Something with a built-in bra so the girls can breathe, and don’t forget those front patch pockets … Those are a keeper.  After all, a girl’s gotta have a place for her cell phone … and maybe even a pair of scissors, too.

J.Crew, are you listening?

– LJDT

That’s What Friends are For

I’ve been sitting in front of the computer for well over two hours now, surfing Pinterest and Facebook, procrastinating.  I decided not to publish my original post for this week because it seems too trivial today … My oldest childhood friend is about to bury her father.  He was sick for only two weeks.  It came on suddenly and swiftly, and it seemed like only a matter of time before the inevitable would happen.  In the days leading up to his passing, Sharon and I communicated mainly through text message, but the one time we spoke on the phone, I was struck by how calm she was.  Pragmatic and strong, almost at peace with what was happening, but heartbroken nonetheless.

Sharon and I have been friends since we were four years old.  That’s almost 40 years!  We’ve always been very different, but it’s worked.

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Pre-kindergarten, c. 1976

In second grade, I used to bring a jelly sandwich to school for lunch and she’d bring a peanut butter one so we could swap one side of each sandwich to make two new, less-squishy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — one for each of us.  In junior high, our friendship took a hiatus (typical pre-teen girl stuff), but by high school graduation we were close again.  Post-college, we both moved back to the city — I lived on the West side, she lived on the East.  We got married two months apart and had our first babies three days apart (in the same hospital).  We shared many milestones together, even after she moved to Connecticut.  But when I moved to Pennsylvania a few years later, something changed.  Visits became rare, phone calls sparse and even emails and texts have been limited over the past couple of years.  I didn’t realize how far we had drifted until my last two birthdays passed without a card, call or text from her.

We’re all busy.  Life with kids is hectic.  But it’s more than that.  People change over time.  Friendships change, too, and sometimes they even end.  My connection to Sharon has certainly been altered over the past few years, but it’s still there.  It hasn’t ended, it’s just different.  I was sad at first, even a little angry at this revelation.  But now I can appreciate how we’ve both grown and changed (it has been almost four decades) and I’ve come to accept what we have now.  We may not be as close as we used to be, but the relationship is still important and worth holding on to.  So in the morning, I am driving up to New York to pay my respects, lend a hand and show my support for an old friend and her family.  I hope my presence strengthens our bond.  I hope it brings back memories of happier times.  I hope it helps ease the pain, even if only a little bit, because that’s what friends do for one another.

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Rest in peace, Mr. McLaughlin.

– LJDT

A Mother’s Day Poem, Inspired by L.L. Cool J

To all my mom readers, Happy Mother’s Day!

Whether you were pampered by your kids with breakfast in bed this morning or left alone to enjoy a day at the spa, I hope you were treated like a queen.  Mothering is tough and even thankless at times, but it is also the most rewarding job in the world.  Today is our day … Enjoy it!  In lieu of a Facebook shout out, I wrote my very own Mother’s Day rap.  Deejay, gimme a beat …

Around the Way on Mother’s Day

written by Lauren Dewey Tarr, to the tune of L.L. Cool J’s  “Around the Way Girl

I want a day with a few extra hours,

sunshine, smiles and some pretty flowers.

Loving children with no attitude,

that’s all I need to get me in a good mood.

No laundry, no clean-up, no yelling today,

just a helpful family who does it my way.

Standing in the kitchen, listening without bitching,

are these really my kids or did someone do some switching?

Playing together on their best behavior,

while my husband lets me nap – now he’s my savior.

They’re following directions, doing exactly as I say,

let’s hear it for the boys, they’re gonna make my day!

I want a calm and happy day,

no fanfare or cheer.

I need a happy Mother’s Day,

just one day a year.

Okay, so maybe L.L. Cool J won’t be calling me to collaborate on his next song any time soon, but my kids enjoyed it.  At least I like to think they did.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother's Day, 2015

Mother’s Day love, 2015

– LJDT

For My Birthday This Year, I Got Guilt

Yes, you read that correctly.  It is not a typo.  For my birthday this year, I got guilt.  Not Gilt, the online retail site.  Not gelt, the Chanukah money.  Good, old-fashioned guilt … You know, that awful feeling you get when you think you’ve done something wrong or let someone down.  That.  Not exactly what I asked for, but I got it anyway.  Three-fold.

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First, I selfishly convinced my 8-year-old that he didn’t want to go to his school’s 3rd grade read-athon event last Friday night because I didn’t want to spend my birthday sitting on the school floor listening to the principal read.  I bribed him with the promise of a Shirley Temple and an extra-large birthday dessert of his choice.  The cake swayed him.  I ordered my dessert with a side of guilt.

Then, I had to cancel a planned weekend trip to New York to visit my mom, who has been housebound since mid-January due to an injury.  My last-minute cancellation disappointed my mother and simultaneously burdened my sister, who then had to step in to help once again.  Score two guilt trips for the price of one.

It was the ultimate guilt-trip trifecta: mommy guilt, daughter guilt and sister guilt.  At least I didn’t feel wife guilt, too, to make it a superfecta (Yes, I had to look that word up).

I was heading into my 43rd birthday feeling rueful instead of happy … Until my sister told me to get over it.  “I don’t do guilt,” she said.  “I don’t have time for it.”  At first, her words sounded callous to me, but then I realized how right she was.  She really is both older and wiser.  Feeling guilty doesn’t change anything.  It doesn’t make the other person feel better.  It doesn’t make me feel any better.  Guilt really is a waste of time.  Thank you, Denise, for reminding me of this.

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Because 2015 is supposed to be about me getting calmer, happier and better, I took my sister’s advice and let the guilt go.  It was my birthday gift to myself … That, and a new pair of bright workout pants.  Happy birthday to me!

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For the record, I still feel bad when I let people down.  It’s just how I am.  But I am learning to release that emotion swiftly and move forward.

– LJDT

Pee on the Seat and Other Bathroom Issues That Plague Me

Toilet paper should hang over the roll, urine should be cleaned up and toilet lids should be closed.  Simple rules, right?

I taught my boys during the potty training process that lifting the seat before and putting it back down afterwards was part of the urinating “routine.”  Just like the “shake it out” move before pulling up your pants, it’s just what you do.  For the most part, this lesson has stuck with them … You’re welcome, future wives.

It is rare that a toilet seat is left up in our house (thankfully), but that might be because it wasn’t lifted in the first place.  The only thing worse than falling into a cold toilet bowl is sitting on a urine-coated toilet seat … I’m sorry, future wives.

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But pee on the seat isn’t the only bathroom issue that plagues me.  Other irksome situations include:

  • Pee on the floor — It’s just as gross, maybe even more so than pee on the seat.  Aim!
  • Pee (or worse) in the toilet bowl — Ok, pee in there doesn’t really bother me too much, but the other does.  Flush!
  • An open toilet cover — One word: germs.  Close the lid (before you flush)!
  • An empty toilet roll — This is just rude.  Replace it!   And leaving a new roll on top of the empty one is lazy.  Put in on … oh, and be sure the paper hangs over, not under.  Side note:  I read an interesting article about toilet paper here that gives a little history, a few data points and a summary of how your orientation preference (over or under) synchs with your personality.  It was spot on for me and my preference.

I’m not saying that there’s always urine on the floor or poop in the toilet, but the boys could be a little tidier.  Luckily, we have multiple bathrooms so the bad aim and other lavatory calamities are mostly limited to their own personal bathrooms, which they are supposed to clean weekly (supposed to being the operative words).  After all, cleanliness is next to godliness.

– LJDT

Down and Dirty in PA

Five miles of hilly terrain.  Seven newly acquainted teammates.  Twelve unknown, muddy obstacles.  Hundreds of face-painted women dressed in matching outfits.  This does not describe my usual Saturday afternoon.  This is not my comfort zone.

I am not generally one to do something wild.  New experiences make me uneasy.  The unknown makes me anxious.  Throw in the fact that I don’t like crowds, mud or running long distances, and it’s a wonder that I entered Mudderella PA 2014 at all.  But I did.  I put on my big girl underpants, a pair of old running sneakers and did something crazy … I got down and dirty and had a blast at Mudderella.

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I have to admit, I had butterflies in my belly before we started.  I go to a kick-ass boot camp three days a week with an awesome trainer and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, but I was still nervous.  I didn’t know my teammates well, I had no idea what the obstacles would be like and I stopped running distances almost two years ago.  Would I be able to handle this?  Was I tough enough?  Confident enough?

As the #mudderella #wave9 group of runners warmed up, I looked around and saw women of all shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities.  Some of these women looked like they couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, but they were hootin’ and hollerin’ and rearing to go.  If they could do it, I thought, so could I.  This was a fun run, after all.  You start and finish with your team.  No winners, no losers.  Just hundreds of women “owning their strong” as the Mudderella theme dictates.

So at 11:30 when the whistle blew (actually, I think it was just a woman yelling “GO!,” but you get the idea), I threw caution to the wind and went for it.

I climbed up nets and over walls.  I ran through mud and over hills.  I crawled under wires and even underground (into a dark hole like a groundhog!).  I carried a teammate on my back and let her carry me .  I cheered on fellow racers and pulled strangers out of mud pits.  I ran the entire course, all five hilly miles of it (thank you, 20-something tri-athlete Jenny, for keeping me motivated) and held hands with my new friends as we crossed the finish line together.

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a full-body dunk washed away much of the mud just moments before crossing the finish line

I got muddy and wet and I may have even peed myself a little (blame it on childbirth … damn kids!), but I did it.  I even handled the group rinse station and communal changing tent like a champ.  With boobies and bums abound, there was no room for modesty, just quick action.  I credit my many dressing room experiences at Loehmann’s and Century 21 for my prowess — you New Yorkers know what I’m talking about.

All in all, I rocked it.  No, I crushed it.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and owned my strong … and then some.  We all did.

Would I do another mud race?  I don’t know … It did take two showers to feel clean again (and three washes to get the mud off my clothes).  But I do know that the next time I’m faced with a new situation, if I believe I can handle it, I will.  I just have to own my (inner) strong.

A quote from the gym, but apropos for all of life's challenges

A quote from the gym, but apropos for all of life’s challenges

– LJDT

All in the Framily

If you watch TV at all, you’ve no doubt seen one of the many Sprint Framily Plan commercials.  A bit odd, yes, but Sprint really got it right with its “Framily” concept … close friends + family = framily.

My husband and I are both lucky enough to each have great framilies.  I’m still besties with my childhood friends and college roommates.  He is still tight with his boarding school buddies and fraternity brothers.  Having the same friends for over 30 years is pretty amazing.  Even more remarkable, though, is my dad who is still close with his kindergarten pals and fellow altar boy servers … and he’s 70!

I love the people in my framily, but I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like.  Sure, we talk on the phone, email each other and text, but actual time together is rare since we don’t live near each other.  That said, this summer I was lucky enough to spend two separate weekends in Boston with two separate groups of our framily.

At the beginning of the summer, I enjoyed a fantastic (albeit much too brief) weekend with my college roommies.  In town for our 20th (gulp!) reunion, it was really more of a girls’ weekend.  No husbands, no kids, no work, no stress.  Just lots of talking, laughing, remembering … and making new memories.  It was the best.

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my BC sisters

Then, just last weekend, I spent yet another wonderful weekend in Beantown.  This time it was a family affair, chillin’ with my hubby’s boarding school brothers.  Beautiful weather, well-behaved children, great friends, plus a dunk tank and a hamster wheel (I’ll let you use your imagination here) … it was a weekend to remember.

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Our Draper framily (in part)

Two different weekends, two different groups, two different approaches … but I came away from both weekends with similar thoughts:

  • The drive from PA to MA is torturous and in no way actually six hours … thank goodness for satellite radio, iTunes and snacks
  • A long car ride is worth it for the right people
  • Time and distance alone do not weaken strong friendships
  • Reunions aren’t just about rehashing the good ol’ days, but also about making new memories … to rehash the next time
  • Laughter really is the best medicine for life’s stresses
  • Every woman in each of my framilies is an inspiration to me (in different ways)
  • I really hope my kids have good childhood friends with whom they stay close through adulthood
  • I miss my bffs!

Life gets crazy.  We are all running in different directions … work … school … kids’ schedules … the list goes on.  Getting together can be difficult to coordinate.  Even staying in touch by phone or email can be hard at times.  But  it’s important to try.

It may sound corny and it’s definitely cliché, but old friends make the best friends … and your best friends are the family you pick for yourself.  Choose wisely.

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– LJDT

Death By Laundry

I’m no stranger to the laundry room.  Second only to the kitchen, it’s where I spend most of my time when home because of the seemingly bottomless pile of dirty, smelly clothes in our house.   And before you get all jealous and think laundry room is actually code speak for something way more fabulous, like mom’s yoga studio, reading corner or meditation room, it’s not.  It really is just the laundry room, with its bleach-y aroma and all.

When the boys were babies, I remember thinking the laundry was endless.  Between diaper blowouts and spit ups (both had reflux so the latter was a near-hourly event), multiple outfit changes throughout the day and night were the norm.  I had to wash at least one load every other day just to keep up.  Now, I could honestly do a load or two every day and still turn around to find more filthy towels and muddy socks on the floor.  I think they multiple when my back is turned — like bunnies or Gremlins.

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Why am I always doing laundry?  It’s not like we’re the Duggar family with 19 kids (can you imagine?  I can barely manage my 2 some days) or even the Jolie-Pitt clan with 6 (as if anyone would ever mistake me for Angelina in any way, shape or form — please), both of whom I imagine would laugh at my lame interpretation of what constitutes excessive amounts of wash since we’re only a family of four.  But it does seem like I’m always in the laundry room.  I credit (blame?) sports.

Sports = blood, sweat and tears.  Blood, sweat and tears = laundry.  Lots and lots of laundry.

Ok, there’s not usually any blood, thankfully, and no tears that my boys will actually admit to.  But there is definitely sweat.  Very smelly, pre-teen boy sweat.  And dirt, grass and mud (remember how rainy it was this past spring?   I was buying bleach in bulk).

Both my boys play on 2-3 sports teams per season.  With games and/or practices nearly every night of the week, their laundry loads are doubled.  I imagine this is what it’s like to have 4 or 5 kids, sans the extra mouths to feed.  Filthy t-shirts, shorts and socks fill the house while stinky uniforms, compression shorts and dry fit shirts add to the locker room-esq atmosphere.  Add in the “accessories” for each sport — shooting sleeves and headbands for basketball, padded pants and girdles for football, sliding shorts for baseball, pinnies and fabric necklaces for lacrosse — and there’s always something else to clean.  Don’t get me started on the equipment, gear bags, sneakers and cleats … that’s a lost cause.

pre-game clean

pre-game clean

No game or practice on the docket?  A rarity, but no worries.  The boys keep the laundry baskets full by heading out to the yard to play ball and dirty up some more clothes.  My youngest son is the best (worst?) at this because he matches his clothes to his activities.  Shooting hoops in the driveway?  Gotta have on the vintage Jordan jersey … Playing football in the backyard?  Switch to the Eagles jersey … Practicing lacrosse?  Time to change into a UNC shirt and colorful lax shorts.  Did I mention this is all within 24 hours?  He changes his ensemble more times in one day than an awards show host does in an evening.

dressed to shoot hoops

dressed to shoot hoops

Can’t play or practice one day?  No problem.  Even playing video games or watching sports on TV produces excessive amounts of laundry in our house.  Why?  Because just as he does when he’s playing sports, my youngest likes to dress the part — from head to toe — to show his team spirit.  Playing Madden NFL on Wii as the Seahawks?  Layer on the blue and green gear … Watching the UVa v. Vandy College World Series baseball game on TV?  Break out the orange and blue (go ‘Hoos!) … Flipping channels between World Cup matches?  That requires multiple outfit changes to match multiple team colors (you should see him during March Madness!).  The best part is, my little sports nut puts all of these clothes in the wash.  Played in or sat in, dirty or not, it all finds its way into the hamper, thereby becoming stinky by association and now in need of laundering as well.  Thanks.

matching shirt, shorts, socks and shoes ... and this is just to watch a game on TV!

typical attire for watching UVa on TV

The irony, though, is that I still find one lone, used sock under his bed and pairs of crumpled up, worn underwear on his closet floor all the time.  Can you say frustrating?

So what’s the answer to my overwhelming laundry dilemma?  The easy solution would be to limit the boys to just one team per season, thereby reducing the volume to some degree.  But what would we possibly do with all those free nights and empty laundry baskets?  Guess I’ll just keep stockpiling bottles of Tide.

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– LJDT

My “Dying” Truth

I’m about to lay down some truth, so you may want to sit down.

I’m not a natural brunette … at least not my current shade of chocolate brown with caramel and butterscotch highlights.  I wish!  (By the way, who else is now hungry after that color description?)  I dye my hair.  Well, actually, I don’t dye it.  I have it professionally colored in a hair salon by a talented man who works hard to keep my grays hidden, even if only for a week or two.  I could honestly color my roots every 10 days, but who has the time or money for that?!

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my latest shade is to “dye” for

With all the time I spend in the salon, I’ve come to realize a few things.  Notably, …

  1. It’s hard for me to relax.  Sitting still stresses me out.  I can’t fully enjoy the pampering because I’m too anxious, thinking about all the things I should be accomplishing instead.
  2. I feel (slightly) guilty spending so much money.  Professional coloring is expensive (not to mention time-consuming), but the results are SO much better than when I do it myself.  I once even had to cut my hair into a pixie style just to remove all the damage I had done.  True story.
  3. I’m tired!  This may be why I don’t sit down much during the day … I fall asleep.  Like really asleep.  It happens often and not because I’m so relaxed (see #1 above).
  4. I am really out of touch with reality TV.  It’s only temporary, though, because by the time I leave the salon, I know more about Kimye, the Real Housewives and Teen Moms than I care to admit.
  5. Hairdressers are like bartenders.  Customers confide in them — airing their dirty laundry, detailing illnesses, bitching about in-laws, bragging about kids … I’m guilty of it, too, sometimes.  Why is that?
  6. Having two stylists blow out my hair simultaneously is both luxurious and a tad creepy at the same time.  All the attention does make me feel a little like a Hollywood celebrity, but it also has a bit of a menage a trois vibe to it.  No further comment is required here … my mother reads this blog.
  7. Getting my hair colored and cut makes me happy.  I always feel more confident when my grays are well-covered and my hair is freshly cut and styled.  Maybe I’m vain, but who isn’t at least a little vain?  Confidence = happiness and we all know that when mama’s happy, everyone’s happy.  It’s a win-win.
flanked by my hairstylists, Jeremy and Kat

flanked by my hair stylists, Jeremy and Kat

So today, after I sat in the salon, agonized about my “To Do” list, thumbed through a few trashy magazines and dozed off once or twice, I returned home a happier (albeit less productive) mom.  Thanks, Jeremy and Kat — see you in a few weeks to do it all again.

– LJDT

The 41-Year Old Virgin

Hello, my name is Lauren and I’m a recovering perfectionist and Type A control freak.  Phew!  It feels good to get that off my chest!

This is my first-ever blog post, so I guess that makes me a 41-year-old virgin.  Please be gentle.

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I used to be a working mom, commuting into Manhattan from the suburbs every day, juggling a career and family.  Now I’m a stay-at-home mom living in the country, driving my school-aged boys from one practice or game to the next.  It’s a different kind of juggling act these days, and just as challenging.

I left the corporate world back in late 2006, after the unexpectedly complicated birth of my second child.  In the three years that followed, I started my own novelty business (bad timing), suffered three mini-strokes (misdiagnosed by three doctors as migraines and postpartum depression), underwent heart surgery (to fix a congenital problem I never knew I had) followed by thyroid surgery (to remove a massive tumor), was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s Disease), and moved from my familiar suburban NY home near family and friends to the unknown countryside of Pennsylvania where I knew no one.  For a control freak like me, this was all a bit overwhelming, to say the least.

Fast forward four+ years to today.  I’m healthy, strong and (mostly) happy.  I love raising our two school-aged boys in the bucolic countryside of Chester County, PA.  I love the great new friends we’ve made here.  I love that we live only a half-mile from horses, cows and cornfields in one direction and Pottery Barn, J. Crew and Target in the other.  I love that you can still buy fresh milk from the local dairy farm and warm french bread from the country baker — both on an honor-system basis.  [Somehow I don’t think the idea of writing down what you took and leaving cash in an old coffee can would work well back in NY!]

I love my life and I love my family — truly, with all my heart.  But frankly, sometimes they all suck.

Why can’t they just do things my way so we can all just get along?  I like to plan, organize and control.  They like things spontaneous, disheveled and chaotic.  I like things to be perfect.  They like things to be fun.  Unfortunately for all involved, my Type-A personality makes it hard for me to just roll with the punches.  I demand too much, yell too much, curse too much, and stress too much.  But I’m working on it.

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My New Year’s Resolutions this year are to (1) start a blog, (2) learn how to sew, and (3) be a better person, specifically by yelling less (or at least softer and less often) and praising more; cursing less (or at least under my breath better) and laughing more; complaining less (or at least not aloud) and appreciating more; planning less (at least when the family schedule allows) and living in the moment more.

Resolution #1 … achieved, as this first blog post proves (yay, me!).  My goal is to post thoughtful musings and funny rants weekly, and I’m sure there will be plenty of “bad mommy moment” confessions sprinkled in for good measure.

Resolution #2 … started.  My mom gave me her old sewing machine (actually, she gave it to me months ago and it’s been collecting dust in my laundry room ever since) and I just ordered a mobile sewing cart.  Soon I’ll have no excuses.  Watch out, Martha Stewart — mended clothes and fabulous new pillow covers coming soon!

As for Resolution #3, that is a work in progress.  I mean, we’re only a few weeks into the year, people!  Things take time.  I will admit, if parenting was football, I would not be headed to the Super Bowl this weekend, but I’m hoping to at least make it to the playoffs next year.  Little by little, step by step, I will learn to give up control and let life be messier and more fun.  As one of my favorite children’s books says, “… remember to stop and smell the roses … [and your] armpits, too!”

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So please come back often to stop and smell the roses with me on the crazy journey of life, motherhood, and parenting.  Just be prepared to smell some armpits along the way, too, because my life is the “perfect” blend of both.

Oh, and for my first time, how’d I do?  Was it as good for you as it was for me?

– LJDT