Valentine’s Gifts for All

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that tends to sneak up on me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s advertised everywhere since December 26th, impossible not to realize it’s coming up.  But for me it’s right after Christmas AND hubby’s birthday.  So, gift ideas are running scarce for me by the time February comes around.  Every year I like to come up with a Valentine gift guide to help those that are in my same situation.  Here are a few options for all the loved ones in your life:

Vday Gifts

  1. Kate Spade Pop Hearts Oblong Scarf, available at Kate Spade stores or katespade.com, $98. Great gift for any young lady.
  2. I Love You Like Lavender Gift Set, available naplessoap.com, $125. I love the scent of lavender and this is a great gift set which contains a Lavender Vanilla 9 oz. Body Butter, Lavender Vanilla 9 oz. Sea Salt Scrub, Lavender Buds Natural Soap, Lavender Vanilla Moisturizer Stick, Lavender Vanilla Bath Bomb, Lavender Infused Honey, Lavender Floral Elixir, and Primal SWAK and Heart of Hearts.
  3. Double Heart Pendant Necklace by Lily Nily, available at lilynily.com, $23. A perfect gift for the little girl in your life.
  4. Beaded Neck Heart Print Dress by Stella McCartney, available at Nordstrom, $168.  A little pricey for some, but sure makes for a special Valentine dress for any little girl.
  5. Lavender 4 Elements Bundle with Genuine Badger Brush, available at theartofshaving.com, $95. To keep in theme with the lavender scent I love, this makes a very nice gift set for the special man in your life.
  6. Kate Spade Tom & Jerry Key Fob, available at Kate Spade stores or katespade.com, $78. For all the Tom & Jerry lovers in your life, very cute.
  7. Valentine’s Day Collection – 12 Jars, available at Goldbelly.com, $120. This is a great gift for anyone who has a sweet tooth!
  8. Valentine’s Day Pie Punches, available at any Williams Sonoma store or williamssonoma.com, $19.  These are great for the baker in your life.
  9. Valentine’s Day Pajama Pants, available at vineyardvines.com, $60. Very comfy and cozy for a night in.
  10. Color Infusion Heart Huggie Hoop Earrings, available at alexandani.com, $58. I really like these hoops, very nice for the special lady in your life.
  11. Instax Mini 9 Camera, available at instax.com, available at amazon.com, $70.  These also come in sets which include a camera case and packs of film.  Great gift for a teenager.
  12. Stripe Monogram Petite Bag in Red, available at apolisglobal.com, $78.  These bags can also be customized and personalized.  Comes in several sizes as well.

Do you typically buy Valentine’s Day gifts?  If so, I hope you enjoyed these suggestions. What would you like to receive?

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Surviving College Road Trips

It’s that time of year.  College acceptance letters are beginning to arrive and your child will soon be heading on a new journey.  All you can think about is how much you will miss them and if they are truly ready to be on their own. But first, they must choose a school, and choosing the right one will be a challenge for the entire family. It doesn’t help that the complete college preparation and selection process nowadays is beyond overwhelming for both parents and students. There are so many schools to choose from, so many scholarships and programs to consider, SAT/ACT scores, extra-curricular activities, on and on and on, and I will say, not every school is for every student, as with most situations in life.

Our daughter started college last fall and we are blessed that everything is going well so far.  She just headed back to school from winter break and was excited to return (a very good sign).

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Our daughter at the University of Notre Dame during freshman move-in weekend.

We visited several schools throughout the selection process and learned many lessons along the way, here are a few of them:

PPPR College Road Trip Title

Plan accordingly.
So many schools, so little time.  Make sure your child has done research and has an idea of what they are looking for and then as a family, decide which ones are on the short list.  Sometimes there are so many schools to visit, we as parents may try to cram in as many in one visit as possible. Please do not make this mistake. There is usually a lot of driving involved between schools. Additionally, visits can sometimes seem overwhelming with information overload.  At times, our daughter preferred to skip the information session and just tour the grounds (after a while, most of these sessions all start to sound similar).  Also, if you visit too many schools on one trip, you may risk your child being exhausted by the end and not really showing interest in the final few (this happened to us as well).  And if you live in the south, make sure your child visits schools up north during the winter months, as the extreme temperature changes will be eye openers for some!

PPPR Campus Tour Title

Have fun.
Just because you will be visiting college campuses does not mean you cannot have fun (a day trip to Disneyland was a must on our UCLA and USC trip). Visits are comprised of more than just information sessions and campus tours.  Our daughter and a friend from high school were on the same trip and they met up with some students from the university that had previously attended their high school. This provided a great opportunity for them to visit dorm rooms and get a perspective from current students.  Get to know the town, this may be your child’s home for the next 4 years. Where are the nearest restaurants, shopping centers, movie theatres, etc. Do a bit of sightseeing if time permits. There will be something captivating about each school, even those that will eventually get eliminated as choices.

College

Talk.  A lot.
In the evenings, usually while we were having dinner or settling in for the night, we would ask our daughter how the day went and if the school met her expectations.  Many times, schools that she was excited about were quickly dropped off the list and vice-versa.  But let your child express their thoughts and feelings and only provide advice as needed.  After all, this is (mainly) their decision.

I hope you enjoy your college road trips when the time comes.  I would love to hear how they went…

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Netflix & Binge…

So when I first heard of Netflix a few years back I couldn’t understand what the craze was all about?  After all, I religiously continue to watch Grey’s Anatomy, House Hunters, Blackish, Modern Family and many other network shows, including programs available through HBO, Cinemax and Showtime (The Affair was amazing).

So why would I need Netflix in my life?

Well, flash forward a few years and I can now completely understand.  I am OBSESSED.  So many great series and original movies to watch, and the best part is the binging (is there any other way)?  It’s also great to watch older series that were once on network TV such as Gilmore Girls, Jane the Virgin and The Good Place, which I had never gotten around to watching.  Even my husband has been hooked on a few series. In addition to the fan favorites such as The Crown, Outlander, Ozark and Cable Girls (all highly recommended), here are some of my off the beaten path favorites:

Schitt’s Creek – 5 Seasons

schitt's creek

By far one of the funniest series I have ever watched.  Can’t even choose a favorite character because I love them all.  A wealthy couple, video store magnate Johnny and his soap opera star wife Moira, suddenly find themselves completely broke. With only one remaining asset, a small town called Schitt’s Creek, which the Roses bought years earlier as a joke, this once-wealthy couple must give up life as they know it. With their two spoiled children in tow (who you will fall in love with) and their pampered lives behind them, the Rose family is forced to face their newfound poverty head-on and come together as a family to survive.

If I Hadn’t Met You – 1 Season

If I hadn't Met You

This is a great series I accidentally stumbled upon and the story line captivated me. It is a Spanish (Catalan) series so you will need subtitles.  If you could go back and do things differently in your life, would you?  I think we all have a moment in time when we ask ourselves that question. The plot revolves around Eduard who loses wife Elisa and their kids in an accident. Later, a mysterious woman known as Dr. Everest teaches Eduard how to travel to alternate universes, which leads him to try to find a world in which his family can be saved. It does start off a bit slow, but keep watching the ending is fantastic.  I even got our teenage daughter hooked on it as well, and she loved it.

Bloodline – 3 Seasons
 
Bloodline

This series has an excellent cast, and I personally love Kyle Chandler. Bloodline is a dramatic thriller that explores the demons lurking beneath the surface of a contemporary American family. The Rayburns are hard-working pillars of their Florida Keys community, but their past contains dark secrets that they hope remain buried. Paranoia and mistrust build as lies pile up, alliances are shattered, and an unthinkable crime takes place. The tight-knit family’s formerly harmonious relationship deteriorates, and good people are forced to consider doing very bad things.

Dead to Me – 1 Season

Dead to Me
This is a great series starring two of my favorite actresses.  Jen’s (Christina Applegate) husband recently died in a hit-and-run, and the sardonic widow is determined to solve the crime. Optimistic free spirit Judy (Linda Cardellini) has recently suffered a tragic loss of her own. The ladies meet at a support group and despite their polar-opposite personalities, become unlikely friends. As the women bond over bottles of wine and a shared affinity for “The Facts of Life,” Judy tries to shield Jen from a shocking secret that could destroy her life as she knows it. The dark comedy explores the weirdly funny sides of grief, loss and forgiveness.

Living With Yourself – 1 Season

Living with Yourself
Paul Rudd is one of my favorite actors, so right away I was intrigued, not only by him but by the plot as well.  Miles Elliot lives an ordinary and routine life with a wife and a job. His job is not going well and he and his wife are struggling to conceive. A co-worker, Dan, tells Miles he can improve his life by going to a spa called Top Happy Spa. Despite not knowing what the spa involves, Miles decides to take a risk and spends all of his family’s savings on a visit. Hours later, Miles wakes up buried in a forest, digs his way out and tries to return home. At home, he finds another version of him. Confused, the two Miles decide to return to the spa, which was the site of his last memory before the grave. There he discovers that he has been cloned.

Santa Clarita Diet – 3 Seasons

Santa Clarita Diet
This one is so quirky and definitely worth seeing, just for laughs.  Our daughter started watching it before I did and she kept telling me I would love it.  I have always really enjoyed Drew Barrymore as an actress, but to me it felt as if Timothy Olyphant (plays Joel her husband) stole the show. His character is exceptionally funny.  The story centers around Sheila and Joel, who are living a quiet life, raising their teenage daughter in Santa Clarita, California. Their world unexpectedly changes when Sheila goes through a dramatic transformation that sends her down a road of death and destruction — but leaves her looking and feeling better than ever.

Velvet – 4 Seasons

Velvet
Another Spanish series so again, subtitles, but I promise it will not disappoint.  In 1958 Spain, Galerias Velvet is the place to be seen and shop and it hides one of the most wonderful love stories ever told. The love story of Ana and Alberto. She is a humble dressmaker. He is a young man destined to inherit the majestic empire of fashion that his father manages until now. Amongst fabrics and haute couture dresses that recall a dream life, both of them are willing to break the rules of that time and live their love despite of what others might try to impose them. However, destiny holds for them too many things that will put their true love to the test; so many that will even turn it into something forbidden.

Which Netflix series are you hooked on?  I’d love to hear…

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Happy 2020!

Happy New Year to all of my readers! I apologize, I have not been on here for a while (very busy past 4 years) but I finally have some time again to dedicate to this special place, which I have always enjoyed so much. I look forward to continue sharing travel tips, vacation planning (my personal favorite), restaurant recommendations, book reviews, gift suggestions, parenting advice, etc. I’m certainly not one to stick with resolutions but I will share this one quote, which I believe is a great one for starting the new year:

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May 2020 bring all of you many blessings, good fortune, love, health and happiness!!!

What are you most looking forward to in the coming year? I’d love to hear…

 

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Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day!

I love ice cream, all types really, I’m not very picky. And you know what I love even more?  Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s, which is TODAY!!!! I first fell in love with B&J when I tried their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, a gazillion years ago. I became addicted, and luckily I was in my 20’s and was able to eat all the ice cream I wanted and still not gain weight. (I wish that were still the case.. 😦 ). Fast forward a few years (or decades) and by now I have sampled many of their amazing flavors, and while it was definitely hard to choose among them, here are my top 5:

1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  B&J knew they were onto something big when they made the world’s first batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream in 1984. Today the flavor still reigns among their all-time most popular concoctions. And how can it not be?  It’s not even one of their more complex or fancier flavors.  It’s quite simple. Vanilla ice cream with gobs (and yes, there are actual gobs!) of chocolate chip cookie dough.  My daughter LOVES this flavor too!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, introduced in 1984.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, introduced in 1984.

2. Milk & Cookies.  We also love this flavor.  It’s probably one of the best sellers for any cookie lover. Vanilla ice cream with a chocolate cookie swirl, chocolate chip & chocolate chocolate chip cookies.  Did you get that?  Yup, it’s chock full of cookies, and it’s heavenly!

Milk & Cookies, introduced in 2012.

Milk & Cookies, introduced in 2012.

3. Half Baked.  This is another one of our favorites.  Chocolate & vanilla ice creams with fudge brownies & gobs (yes again with the gobs) of chocolate chip cookie dough.  A little bit of everything, it’s just delicious!

Half Baked, introduced in 2000.

Half Baked, introduced in 2000.

4. Strawberry Cheesecake.  This is one of my all time favorite flavors, however, my daughter doesn’t care much for it (she doesn’t like cheesecake…gasp!).  Strawberry cheesecake ice cream with strawberries and a thick graham cracker swirl. Any cheesecake lover (like myself) will be thrilled with this flavor, and the graham cracker swirl, is just awesome.

Strawberry Cheesecake, introduced in 2005.

Strawberry Cheesecake, introduced in 2005.

5. Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core.  Ah…the cores!  These are some amazingly delicious flavors that B&J came out with some years ago, which each have a yummy, chocolately, caramel or cookie core in the center of the pint. Dark caramel & vanilla ice creams with speculoos cookies and a speculoos cookie butter core.  Just absolutely amazing!

Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core, introduced in 2015.

Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core, introduced in 2015.

So, do you love Ben & Jerry’s as much as we do?  If so, which are your favorite flavors?  I’d love to hear!

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Sunday Night Blues

As far as I can remember, I have experienced the Sunday Night Blues. It all started when I was very young and I was terrified of going to school. Once Sundays came around, I would get very anxious and my stomach would start to rumble and I would ask my parents if I could sleep with them. Of course my mom would say yes, and once I was sound asleep my dad would carry me back to my own bed. This continued for a while. Eventually I got over the fear of school (heck, I even have a MBA), and I was always an excellent student, but my dislike and anxiousness for Sundays, sadly, still exists today. I can’t explain it, my favorite night of the week is actually Thursday, not Friday like most would think. This is because Fridays have always been fun days, whether at school (in college I would always try to take a very heavy load of courses Monday through Thursday just to have Fridays off), and even at work. People are always in such a great mood on Fridays, they go out to lunch, discuss weekend plans…

And of course I love Saturdays too, a fun day to spend with family and friends, doing just about anything you want. However, come Sunday morning, and it’s a completely different story. Something inside my brain starts to shift and the feelings of sadness and anxiousness begin. The pit in the stomach feeling. Dread. Even now, that I am a mom, and I am finished with school and I’m not currently working outside the house. So I ask myself “Why do I still feel this way?” And I just cannot come up with an answer.

Well, I guess I am not alone in this after all. I recently read somewhere that even if you’re lucky enough to not hate your job, Sunday nights are rough. In a 2015 poll from the career site Monster.com, 76% of American respondents said they get Sunday-night blues…and 59% said they experience them “really bad.”

To me, Sundays feel the same as when I return from a great vacation. I always say that some of the best moments of a trip for me are the planning and anticipation. I always get very sad after returning from great trips and also feel this way right after Christmas, or when summer ends and my daughter goes back to school.  And I think that’s how I feel every Sunday night. The weekend is over. Back to the same weekly routine. Fridays are like the planning phase of a vacation, while Sundays are the end of the vacation. And I don’t know about many of you, but in my family, we all experience the Sunday Blues, so Sunday nights are not much fun. Everyone is anticipating the horrible Monday that is creeping up, sooner rather than later.

I’ve read many articles on this topic, which suggest strategies such as, identifying your triggers, better organizing your week ahead, meditation, finding a new direction and/or a new job, scheduling fun things for Sunday instead of Saturdays, etc, etc, etc…

Unfortunately, I can tell you that none of these things work for me. This is not one of those posts that will enlighten you on how to rid yourself of this feeling.  I will simply always feel this way on Sunday nights. I wish I didn’t, but I do.

Do you experience the Sunday Night Blues? If you do, what do you do to alleviate your anxiety, depression or worries? I’d love to hear.

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Leap Day Trivia

So today is February 29, and this day only comes around every 4 years!  I’ve always been a bit fascinated with Leap Day so I went digging and found some interesting trivia about Leap Years:

  • Every leap year features an extra day added to the end of February, giving February 29 days instead of the usual 28. This bonus day happens because there aren’t actually 365 days in a year, but rather 365.242190 days. To compensate for this extra time, an extra day needs to be added approximately every four years.
  • If you’re born on February 29, you’re known as a “leaper” or a “leapling.” Around 4 million people in the world have been born on February 29.
  • Leap year babies celebrate their original birthday only once every four years.
  • The chances of having a leap birthday are one in 1,461.
  • The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies is a club for people born on February 29. More than 10,000 people worldwide are members.
  • February 29 became the official leap day because of the ancient Romans, who added this extra day to the Roman calendar used during the Roman Empire. Roman emperor Julius Caesar also incorporated the leap year into the calendar he created, known as the Julian calendar.
  • In Hong Kong the legal birthday of a leapling is March 1 and in New Zealand it is February 28.
  • In Taiwan, married daughters return home on leap month because it is believed that lunar month can bring bad health to parents.
  • Greeks believe getting married on a leap year will only bring bad luck. However, other cultures like Great Britain and Ireland believe a leap year is the time when women should ask men to get married instead of the usual custom of men asking women.
  • The frog is the symbol associated with February 29.
  • Leap year is also called known as St. Oswald’s Day, named after the Archbishop of York who died on February 29.
  • Head to Anthony, Texas, or Anthony, New Mexico. Both claim the title of “Leap Year Capital of the World.” To celebrate the leap year, the town in Texas holds a large festival that features square dancing, fun events, and activities on a nearby farm, and it even offers a tour through an Aztec cave.
  • Astrologers believed children born on leap year have unusual talent, unique personalities and even special powers.

So, what are your thoughts on Leap Day, do you celebrate this day in any special way? Were you born on February 29?  I’d love to hear.

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