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.

Learn More

Let’s hear from you.

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

Must Reads for Today’s Successful Blended Families


For advice or information, email carol@shwanda.com


Subscribe with RSS

...or by email

Seaweed Art Cards
  • Published on October 10, 2011

    Paul and I had a fabulous weekend in San Francisco. It started Friday afternoon around 3 when I got home from work and Paul already had the car  packed, including our bikes on the rack on the back of the car. He left my suitcase, opened on our bed, waiting for me to toss in the weekend’s essentials. I packed in about 10 minutes and we were outta there.

    We drove up the coast and stopped in Pescadero at our usual pit stop, Arcangeli’s Market, where we purchased a bottle of local wine, artisanal goat cheese and Arcangeli’s signature artichoke bread. It was still warm. This is something we have been doing since we first met and the ritual of the routine always gives me a sense of comfort. I’m brimming with love for this man. He’s sooo romantic.

    We arrived at South Beach Harbor at about 6, opened up the boat, noshed on our goodies and took a moonlit bike ride up the Embarcadero along the waterfront to the Ferry Plaza Building. It was so peaceful and relaxing. Paul and I love  boating, sailing, harbors, seaports and anything to do with water. We were in our element.

    It was Fleet Week in San Francisco and the waterfront was loaded with sailors, in their pegged legged pants and white cupped caps. Paul couldn’t help but feel supreme pride in his son, Sam, who is currently in Naval basic training. I’m sure he imagined seeing him in uniform. I couldn’t help but feel that Paul’s nautical influence has rubbed off on his son, who was a seasoned sailor at a very young age.

    "image of a crab Ceasar Salad"

    The Blue Angels were in town so we biked over to North Beach to watch the show, which also included appearances by the Royal Canadian Snow Birds and the Stealth Bomber. The rest of the weekend was taken up with dinner with friends, lunch at  Ferry Plaza Seafood and quiet, romantic evenings alone. As I mentioned before, we are not going to have any trouble adjusting to an empty nest.

    1 Comment
  • Published on September 26, 2011

    When Paul and I weren’t sailing in Marina del Rey or biking along Venice Beach, we were savoring seafood at some of the best restaurants in town– most notably, one aptly named Killer Shrimp.

    Our waitperson told us that they simmer the shrimp in a special seasoning for ten hours. We could smell it from the harbor. It’s killer. Trust me. I was so enamored of this delectable brew, that I Googled the recipe and found the “unofficial version” at Epicurious. Here it is.


    • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
    • 1 teaspoon celery seed
    • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
    • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
    • 3 ounces tomato paste
    • 8 ounces clam juice
    • 1 stick butter
    • 1 cup white wine
    • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 1/2 pounds peeled shrimp, with tails
    • French bread for dipping.

    Partially break up the rosemary, thyme, and fennel seed with fingers. Place all ingredients, except wine and shrimp, in a large pot.
    Simmer for about 30 minutes and add wine. Continue to simmer for a total cooking time of no more than 2 hours. Just before serving, add raw shrimp. Simmer until shrimp is done, stirring, about 2 minutes.  Serve. Each bowl should contain a serving of shrimp and a lot of broth, which should almost completely cover the shrimp.

    No Comments
  • Published on September 26, 2011

    Paul and I were in Southern California on a business/mostly pleasure trip for the past five days. We stayed on his brother’s sail boat in the Marina del Rey harbor and it was absolutely the most relaxing and wonderful respite from a busy, hectic blended family life.

    Paul and I both love the ocean, marinas and sailing and on this vacation we got to experience all three. The whole time we were gone I couldn’t help but think, “This is how we do it! If we didn’t have this time alone, we would never survive.”

    No Comments
  • Published on May 31, 2011

    I have always believed that there’s no time like the present to learn a new skill or develop a new hobby. It keeps life interesting, challenging and staves off boredom, and dare I say, the empty nest syndrome.  I think this is especially important when one reaches, ah hem, the middle-aged years, when our lovely children leave their nests and move on to greener pastures and greater opportunities for themselves.

    It’s time. Not just for them, but for me too. Read the rest of this entry »

    1 Comment
  • Published on May 8, 2010

    Snow covered mountainsJelly fish decorReno hotel roomPaul and I are on a business trip in Reno, NV, a town that bills itself as the biggest little town …or… the smallest big town. I can’t remember. Something like that. Unlike their sister city, Las Vegas, also a gambling town, Reno has a more comfy, Wild West feel to it. (Note the Italian restaurant named Romanza. Is that a cross between romance and Bonanza??) It is closer to our home so we drove the five hour trip  past snow covered mountains through Truckee and Tahoe. We are here for a conference in which both Paul and I were guest speakers. More on that later. First I have to tell you about the hotel. If I were searching for words to describe it, ” tasteful” would not be one of them. However, this place is a riot and we are having a ball.

    The casino, with its  tall ceiling, flashing neon lights and  popping sounds of slot machines can best be described as  walking through a life size pinball machine. That was the image that came to my mind. The Oceano Restaurant, complete with hanging jelly fish chandeliers has to be experienced in order to be fully appreciated.  The hotel room itself, however,  conjures an entirely different image. There is  a large Jacuzzi tub (for two)  in the center of the room with mirrors on the ceiling, naturally, and get this… there is a double strand of rope lighting  surrounding the perimeter of the ceiling that when lit up in the evening resembles an airport landing strip. Who designs these places I want to know? The trip was very successful but I am anxious to go home. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I miss my children.

    No Comments
  • Published on April 15, 2010
    One of the many swimming pools at Bellagio.

    One of the many swimming pools at Bellagio.

    After my wonderful four days with the girls touring colleges, shopping and sightseeing  in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, I headed home Tuesday night only to unpack and repack to head out to Las Vegas with Paul for a business conference. We stayed at the opulent, over-the- top hotel, Bellagio.

    I had only been to Las Vegas once before, a year ago, which was also a work related trip. From a business perspective, the trips were both  huge successes. From a personal perspective, I have to say, Vegas is not my cup of tea. Or martini, or vodka tonic or whatever they drink in Sin City.

    The town simply offends me on so many levels. I don’t know what bothers me the most, the manufactured ambiance, (fake oceans for instance), the cigar/cigarette smoke everywhere (Paul requested a non-smoking section in a restaurant and was informed there is no such thing.) the over-stimulating excess (re-touched posters of Cher) or the Frank Sinatra/Julio Iglesias/Celine Dion music blaring from the sound system.  Just in case you haven’t heard, Frank Sinatra was a member “the Rat Pack” and he and his buddies, Dean, Sammy and Joey, used to play a lot of gigs in Vegas. Lest we forget, his image and voice are everywhere. So are impersonators of Marilyn and Elvis. The best comparison I can make is to say  visiting this town is like sitting through a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show … on steroids.

    But I was never a party girl. I like dressing up for maybe an hour and then my feet hurt from the high heels and I want to kick them off, put on some sweats, crawl into a club chair and read a book. OK, so I’m boring. I missed my kids. We are already planning our next college tour.

    1 Comment
  • Published on March 27, 2010

    view from Marriott poolPaul and I just arrived home from our trip to L.A. It was a long, dusty ride up Highway 5 so we are both happy to be home. This is a photo I took from the pool yesterday. After spending most of the day in the hotel room doing homework, I decided to take a dip. Isn’t this a lovely scene?

    No kids this weekend. I just poured myself a glass of wine and am settling in to finish up some homework. This is my final week of my third class in graduate school so I am now a quarter of the way through. Did I mention that I am going to Full Sail University? Perhaps I should give them a plug here. I absolutely love it. Could not be happier. I am learning so much and my mind is just BURSTING with creativity. I wake up excited every morning and I just love the added boost it is giving my career. Paul is thrilled with my added and continued contribution to our business. Yeah.

    No Comments
  • Published on March 27, 2010

    Eva's Cornell boxEva had to make a memory box, also known as a “Cornell box” for her multi media art class in school. She chose as her theme our summer trip to the East coast. She included some sand, seashells, a beach pass and her ferry ticket to see the Statue of Liberty. I took this photo while it was on display at the community center downtown. She and I went together to view the exhibit and afterward stopped by Jamba Juice and got a smoothie. I try to make special time to spend alone with each of my children. They enjoy it and it gives me a chance to get to know them better individually.

    No Comments
  • Published on March 26, 2010

    shabu-shabu_rsPaul and I are on a business trip in L.A. It is the first time we have been away together for work since last June when we were actually in Beverly Hills the day Michael Jackson died. It is nice to get away again and we have several other trips planned in the coming weeks. One to VEGAS!!! and the other to Reno, NV. In Vegas we will be staying at The Bellagio and attending a business conference.

    Our business model has changed considerably in the past few months and Paul and I are enjoying working together and planning our new marketing strategies. My current studies in Internet Marketing are helping immensely. Yesterday Paul presented a seminar and afterward I was in the mood for sushi. They have great sushi restaurants here in L.A. Instead we tried something different and very unusual to me: shabu shabu. It is so cool. You have to try it. You cook your own food in pots of boiling water at your table. I know. It sounds treacherous, but it’s not. The meat is sliced very thin and it only takes a few minutes to cook. You can add your own spices and garnishes and top with sauces like miso and soy. Boiling the water draws out the fat in the meat. Then it is served with vegetables and noodles. Very good and very satisfying.

    No Comments
  • Published on March 16, 2010

    Flip standing guard

    This is our cat Flip standing guard by the back door of our house. Noticed the claws slightly displayed. Our pets mean a lot to the kids, as they were always a source of comfort and security during tough times. Whenever the kids have had a rough day they usually find one of our three cats, or the dog and just curl up and snuggle.

    No Comments