My 1 Year Blogiversary!

Today marks the one year anniversary of my first blog post, or my blogiversary, as it’s referred to in the blogging world.  Wow, I can’t believe I have been blogging for one entire year.  I wasn’t sure I would last this long, and as it turns out, I still have a lot to say!  To celebrate this occasion, I decided to give my blog a makeover with the help of two wonderful and very patient ladies…Erin at twothirdshazel and Lisette at highnotedesigns, I highly recommend you stop by both their blogs and say hello.  Thanks to them, my blog now has a fresh, new look which I love.

While this past year has been a ton of fun, it has also been a ton of work (much more than I had anticipated to be honest), and a learning experience for sure.  First and foremost, when I signed up with WordPress, I had no idea how to use the program, and I had to set this blog up myself, with no help…YIKES! Thankfully, WordPress actually has some pretty good customer service and they got back to me pretty quickly whenever I had questions (which was quite often). Having said that, it seemed like it took forever to learn. But eventually I got comfortable enough with it and felt brave enough to publish my first post.

So here are the top 5 things I’ve learned in my one year of blogging:

  1. You can find a blog on any topic at all (really, any topic). Before starting on this journey, I had read a few blogs on fashion and travel, but for the most part, I thought blogging was generally about people sharing their quirky life experiences and opinions. I was seriously misinformed. I have come across bloggers that blog about anything under the sun. What I found most surprising is how often people blog (many 5-7 times a week!) and also the topics that are being discussed.  Oh and there are about a zillion bloggers out there in the blogging world.  If you have a subject that you are curious about or just looking for research on ANYTHING…Google it and you will see that many of the results are links to blog posts.
  1. Bloggers are monetizing their blogs. I didn’t realize just how many bloggers are making a part-time or possibly full time living off blogging (kudos to them for figuring that out).  But as much as I enjoy reading about the latest brownie recipe, or the hottest new hotel in Fiji, do I really want to read about the newest light bulbs GE is coming out with?  Not really. However, I’ve also come across many blogs that are amazing and full of great content, which I now follow on a regular basis.  And the bloggers I have met through this process are wonderful. They are supportive and have great ideas, as well as answers to many questions I have had.
  1. Social media is key in increasing your blog’s traffic. This is crucial.  Most of my readers are being referred to my blog from my blog’s Facebook page, as well as posts on Instagram and Pinterest.  I can’t stress this enough, you have to advertise your blog everywhere.  Encourage your friends and followers to share your posts with their friends and on their social media outlets.
  1. Blogging is a lot of work and takes up a lot of time. I blog for fun (although I’m sure hubby would love for me to make some income on the side).  I truly enjoy sharing my thoughts on beautiful places I have traveled to, nice restaurants, good books, fun crafts, whatever tickles my fancy on a particular day. I don’t have or want a niche because I feel that would limit what I can write about.  Of course, I have read that it’s better to have a niche, such as, “beach” travel or “gluten free” recipes, etc.  But I prefer having flexibility, so I just call myself a lifestyle blogger, and it works…for now.  I usually blog only once a week, twice a week, on occasion, if I have a lot on my mind. But I couldn’t imagine blogging every day.  I like to take my time with my posts (I have a bit of OCD).  I wish I could blog more frequently, as I have seen many fellow bloggers do, but I just haven’t figured out how to accomplish that yet…life gets in the way.  And I guess for now, that’s OK.  Because you see, as a blogger, I realized that I am not just a writer, but also an editor, photographer, photo editor (oh boy, had to learn Photoshop too), marketer, planner (I’m good at that), publicist…the list goes on and on. It’s truly a lot of work and very time consuming.  I’ve always believed in quality over quantity.  I really enjoy blogging at my pace and I love that my readers are enjoying it as well.
  1. Blog about what’s important to YOU, not others. I come across so many bloggers that are obsessing over their Google Analytics, Klout scores, Alexa ranking, number of comments they’re getting, number of subscribers they have…etc. While all of these measurements may be significant, especially to those that make money from product reviews and endorsements, it’s not what’s most important. Remind yourself why you started blogging in the first place (I’m sure it wasn’t about the most efficient light bulbs on the market now). Most likely it’s because you love to write and share your thoughts and ideas with others.  Don’t lose sight of that.

So if you’re reading this…thank you, thank you, thank you! If you’ve left comments on my blog, shared my posts, or even just discussed them with others, I am sending you an e-hug. I’m really happy that you find my blog entertaining and I hope that you can relate to some of my ideas, as I have really enjoyed reading all of your comments this past year. I hope you have followed me on my adventure thus far and if you haven’t, please take a look around, and let me know your thoughts.  I’m just as excited to start my second year of blogging. Until next time…

My Signature

My Office Supply Addiction

I admit it…I am an office supply addict.  My addiction started when I was very young.  My dad knew I loved stickers and he started buying them for me at Hallmark (the only place stickers were sold back then) near his job in NYC. My mom would also take me to the Sanrio store and I would go nuts buying little Hello Kitty colored pencils and pads.  Fast forward many years later… and now I just love anything that has to do with stickers, craft supplies, desk accessories, and oh boy do I love a nice set of pens!  If any store has an office supply or stationery section, you can find me there (and now my daughter too).  And I have to say, I have found the most amazing stationery stores in Europe, (papelerias as they are called in Spain).  Back to school time offers a great selection of pens, sticky notes, markers, cute paper clips, you name it! Looks at these pencils, how can I resist??

Colorful mechanical pencils, found here.

Are you an office supply addict?  Here’s a quick list that will help you determine if you are:

1) You have more pens, pencils and markers than you’ll ever use in one lifetime.

2) You feel the urge to visit Office Depot at least once a month (or Archiver’s if you shop online).

3) You have an entire drawer stuffed full of blank, unopened writing pads and post-it pads, more than  necessary for anything you will ever write down in your life.

4) You have a giant collection of adorable erasers…which cannot be used because they are so cute.

5) There’s no such thing as too many blank notecards!

6) You’re more excited to visit the Sanrio store in the mall, full of Hello Kitty stationery, than Nordstrom.

7) You secretly love back to school time, just for the new school supplies you’re buying for your “kids”.

8) You have an immense sticker collection, as a gown adult, and continue to buy more with every visit to Michael’s.

9) You purchase items such as a Sticker Stadium and a Washi Tape Dispenser (don’t judge).

10) You get really upset when someone doesn’t return one of your favorite pens (they’re all your favorites).

11) You’re vacationing in Italy, and suddenly you spot an old handmade paper and stationery store, and you HAVE to go in.

12) You write a blog post about your addiction.

And don’t even get me started on monogrammed notepads and calendars!  Here are a few more of my favorite office supplies:

Beautiful color coordinated desk accessories offered at  www.poppin.com.

My washi tape dispenser, found here.

My washi tape dispenser, found here.

Cute pencil case, found here.

Cute pencil case, found here.

Kate Spade eraser set, found here.

Kate Spade eraser set, found here.

Label maker from the Container Store, found here.

Label maker from the Container Store, found here.

Mini Sticky Notes, found here.

Mini Sticky Notes, found here.

Kitty post-it dispenser, found here.

Kitty post-it dispenser, found here.

Shaped paper clips, click here.

Shaped paper clips, click here.

USB Tulip Hub, found here.

USB Tulip Hub, found here.

And lats but not least, my new sticker stadium, found here.

And last but not least, my new sticker stadium, found here.

Do you like office supplies?  What are some of your favorite items, I love them all!

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Well believe it or not the month of January has flown by and here we are getting ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day in less than a week (even though I have some neighbors who have yet to put away their Christmas decorations!) I know many of you may not celebrate this day or make a big fuss about it, but for those of you who do, I decided to round up some of my favorite (and most original) ideas I found to surprise your loved ones with.  Here they are:

Valentine's Gifts

  1. Valentines Day “Hashtag Conversation Heart” Cookie set, by Sugared Hearts Bakery, $20. Visit their Etsy store for cookies for all types of events, they are beautiful as well as delicious!
  2. Tory Burch Logo Heart Key Fob, available at http://www.toryburch.com, $55.
  3. COACH Corner Zip Wristlet in heart print crossgrain leather, available at http://www.coach.com, $75.
  4. Under This Moon Bracelet by Gemagenta on Etsy, $30.  This has to be one of the most creative and romantic gifts I’ve come across.  The custom necklace or bracelet is made by hand to reflect the moon phase of any date you desire, even past dates. How cool is that??
  5. BAN.DO Assorted Pen Set, a great gift for your kids, available at http://www.shopbando.com, $14. Browse their website for many other affordable cute gifts for Valentine’s.
  6. Alex and Ani Key to My Heart Charm Bangle, available at http://www.alexandani.com, $28.  Also sold at Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Dillard’s, and various local jewelry stores.  I love these bracelets and my daughter loves to wear many of them at once.  Browse their website for all types of collections.
  7. Hey Handsome Shaving Kit Bag for the man in your life, available at http://www.owenandfred.com, $68.  Available in various colors. This is a great website offering many gifts for men.
  8. A Big Kiss His & Her Pillowcases, available at http://www.gifts.com, $36.  Does it get any cuter than this??
  9. The New Disney Jewelry Collection by Pandora.  This is perfect for the Disney lover in your life (I know a few of those).  Available anywhere Pandora is sold or at http://www.pandora.net, prices for charms range from $45-$80.
  10. Milktape, a company that makes modern day mixed tapes using cassette tape-shaped USBs complete with cover and plastic case, so you can make it extra personal. Each tape holds about 15 songs (128 MB) and can be used with PC or Mac. I know this brings back a lot of memories from my youth.  Available at http://www.milktape.com, $15.
  11. Petite Heart Cocotte by Le Creuset, for the chef in your life, available at http://www.lecreuset.com, $25.  Comes in various colors if you’re not into pink.
  12. Heart Audio Headset Splitter, for just about anyone on your list, available at http://www.accessorygeeks.com or http://www.amazon.com, $8.

And if you prefer not to spend money on gifts, then there’s always that special card like this one available at http://www.papersource.com.

Valentine's Day cards available at www.papersource.com

Valentine’s Day cards available at http://www.papersource.com

Have you thought about Valentine’s Day yet?  And if so, what would you like to gift or receive?

Winter Nights

For many of you, winter is here and you’re already wondering how many more days until summer (158)!  Luckily for me, I live in Miami, where it is summer year round, although I would absolutely love and welcome some cooler weather. So, on the unlikely occasion that the weather dips down, or on a “winter” evening with my air-conditioner set to 70, here’s what I need for my “Cozy Night In”:

SOCKS… I always have socks on when I am home, and I sleep with socks on every night!  Don’t know why but me feet are always cold and I love how warm my comfy socks make them feel.  I love all socks, but my favorites are the Thermal Socks with Trim available at Bed Bath & Beyond. These thermal socks are moisturizing and extra warm. The unique double layer provides warmth and comfort, while the inner layer is infused with rich, hydrating shea butter for conditioning moisturizer (which lasts through 15 washings).   I have several pairs in various colors, they are the best, $10.

SLIPPERS… Along with my socks I need a great pair of slippers for walking around the house.  I love the UGGS slippers that my daughter has, but I didn’t feel like spending so much, so I found a great substitute.  I recently came across the Women’s Shearling Scuff Slippers from Land’s End.  They are a dream and come in several different colors.  I got the pink ones of course! On sale now for $45.

BLANKET… What good is a cozy night in without a great blanket to cuddle up with?  My favorite is the Room Essentials Microfleece Blanket available at Target.  It’s super soft and keeps me warm.  Available in various colors, $15.  Vera Bradley also has microfleece blanket in various patterns, just as soft, $49.

HOT COCOA… My favorite beverage for a warm, comfy night…brewing a cup of hot cocoa in my Keurig.  I love the Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate K cups, also available at Target or Bed Bath & Beyond, $10 for a box of 16.

GOOD MOVIE… I love a good, funny, romantic comedy, (chick flicks), any will do.  A few of my favorites are Under the Tuscan Sun, The Devil Wears Prada, Letters to Juliet, The Vow, 13 Going On 30… you get the drift. And I’m also OK watching most anything on TLC (don’t judge)!

After my evening of fun and TV, there’s always my inviting bed!  Nothing like cozy, fluffy bedding, like the type one finds in the luxury hotel chains to invite you to a great night’s sleep. And if you’re looking for some new bedding, you have to check out the line by Parachute Home. Parachute provides high quality bedding made from Egyptian cotton, designed locally in Venice Beach, CA and manufactured in Italy (ahh… Italy, say no more). Take a look at this picture from their website, just beautiful! My favorite are the powder blue sheets, oh and I can’t wait to try their lavender scented candles as well.  Sheet sets start at $99.

Luxurious Bedding.  Photo Courtesy of Parachute.

Luxurious Bedding. Photo Courtesy of Parachute.

How do you stay comfy and cozy when the weather cools off?

My Christmas Must Haves!

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year! I love the family gatherings, the delicious holiday treats, the Christmas music that reminds me of my youth, Secret Santa gifts for school, the beautiful lights and trees everywhere, hunting for the perfect gift for loved ones and most importantly, celebrating the birth of Jesus.  But sometimes I need a little help to get me through some of the last minute craziness of the holidays, and that’s where my Christmas Survival Kit helps me stay sane and continue with my holiday spirit:

Christmas Kit

I love the Starbucks holiday drinks served in the holiday cups. My favorite is the Peppermint Mocha; espresso, steamed milk, mocha sauce and peppermint flavored syrup. Topped with sweetened whipped cream and dark chocolate curls. YUM!  Along with their holiday drinks, I also love and look forward to their Cranberry Bliss Bar every year; a blondie cake base, topped with sweet cream cheese icing, tart dried cranberries and white orange drizzle. It’s delicious!

In my house we all love to listen to Christmas music, but one album in particular has been part of my Christmas tradition since I was very young.  The Salsoul Orchestra Christmas Jollies.  Typical Christmas songs with a disco, dance twist (yes, in case you’re wondering, I grew up in the 70s and 80s).  You can listen to some of the songs and download the entire album if you like it on iTunes here.

We also love to watch Christmas movies, I love them all really, but my favorite has to be Love Actually. Not only do I love the message it sends, but I also happen to love many of the actors in the film (my favorites being Colin Firth and Hugh Grant).

Another Christmas tradition from my youth, and I have continued it in my adult life is the Swiss Colony Christmas Petit Fours, you can order some here. Every year I order boxes for all of my family members (they all love them too), and I make sure we have plenty to serve on Christmas day.  It’s just not Christmas without Swiss Colony!

And last but not least, I love to sit at night with my husband sipping hot chocolate, and just gaze at our beautifully decorated tree. I’ve been collecting Christmas ornaments for many years, Hallmark dated ones to mark special occasions, glass and ceramic ornaments from our various trips to Greece, Germany, Spain and Italy, as well as many others I’ve received as gifts.  My daughter just told me the other day that our tree was very special, and that she had never seen any other tree with such beautiful and special ornaments.  That made my day!

But sometimes I can get a bit stressed when trying to figure out what to buy that one difficult person (usually the men in my family). Last year, I came across Man Crates, a company that specializes in creating wooden gift boxes for men with anything from movie night to golfing  (oh, and did I mention it comes with a crowbar for them to open it with?)  As stated on their website:

“We say ‘no’ to ugly neckties, cologne samplers and executive trinkets.
We don’t save wrapping paper, we don’t do ribbons.
We ship bragworthy gifts for guys.
Gifts that you can’t wait to arrive because you know the recipient will love opening them.
Gifts that people gather round at the office, people following the sounds of wood being torn from wood by the included, laser-engraved crowbar.
We are Man Crates, and we deliver awesome gifts for men”

So, if you’re looking for some creative gifts for the men in your life, make sure to check out Man Crates and click here for some awesome gift ideas . I’m sure you will find something very original for that special guy.  Prices for crates range from $25 – $180.  Here’s one of my favorites:

The Clean Shave Crate

The Clean Shave Crate Photo Courtesy of Man Crates

What are your holiday must haves? I’d love to hear!

Britto Mania

Homeless Meters

“Homeless” Meters

I’m sure by now most everyone recognizes the work of famous pop artist Romero Britto. His art literally pops up almost all around the world, in places like New York City, Singapore, Berlin, London, Brazil, Sweden, and of course in Miami, his home since 1989.  Pretty much you are bound to run into a Britto sculpture in most major airports, parks, shopping centers, you name it. But his artwork is very widespread here in South Florida.

I’ve always been drawn to his art, as it’s very colorful and happy. Our daughter fell in love with his huge heart sculpture when she was a toddler. She first saw it in the window of his gallery on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, when she was 2 years old. Every time we passed by the gallery, she started jumping up and down and insisted we go inside so she could see the heart up close.  Of course not every one cares for this type of art, and he is sometimes criticized for his work, but I’ve always found it very interesting. I also think it’s great that artists and celebrities utilize their popularity to help worthy causes, as he has many times. The “Homeless” Meters placed throughout Miami, collect change from random passerbys and then distribute it to local organizations helping in the fight to end homelessness, essentially, they are collection boxes.

Miami is full of Britto sculptures throughout the city. Here are a few of my favorites:

My daughter a few years ago visiting her favorite heart sculpture on Lincoln Road, Miami Beach.

 

Midtown Shopping Center, Miami

 

Grapeland Water Park, Miami

 

Various sculptures at the Kendall Village Shopping Center, Miami

 

A condo building near I-95 in Miami.

A condo building near I-95 in Miami (another one of my daughter’s favorites)

 

At the Miami Children's Museum

At the Miami Children’s Museum

 

Shopping center on 5th Street and Alton Road, Miami Beach

Shopping center on 5th Street and Alton Road, Miami Beach

 

Dadeland Station Shopping Center, Miami

Dadeland Station Shopping Center, Miami

Do you like this type of art?  Do you own any Britto pieces?

For many Britto items, check out their website at http://www.shopbritto.com

If you’re in the Miami area, you can visit the gallery at:

Britto Central
818 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach

Social Media…We All Need a Break Sometimes

It feels like social media is taking over the world.  The first thing most of us do when we wake up is check our phones (I’m guilty of that myself on most days!) I think we’ve all become a bit obsessed with our phones…people waiting in line overnight for the latest iPhone…is that really necessary? But during my recent vacation is when I realized how connected everyone really is. We were visiting Venice and the Greek Islands (more of that to come soon), and I was amazed at the number of people who were on their phones…EVERYWHERE WE WENT!

Social-MediaWe ‘d be having dinner and would hear people asking the waiters to take photos of them and then asking if the restaurant had Wi-Fi, so that they could immediately post the photos on Facebook and Instagram. Then you would hear others complaining that their battery had run out. I also witnessed business owners requesting customers to post positive reviews on Tripadvisor and to like their Facebook pages.

Something else that I was surprised at was the amount of people who have substituted their phones for their cameras. Places like Venice and Santorini are a photographer’s dream. I couldn’t imagine just relying on my camera’s phone for pictures.  But of course, by using your phone, you can immediately post them on social media, and show everyone what a wonderful time you’re having. I have been traveling for years and I remember the days when everyone carried all types of cameras (I still travel with two, just in case). I rarely see people with cameras anymore.

Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I feel that being on your phone all day when you’re on vacation is ridiculous.  Shame on the adults that were acting this way, as our kids take a lot of their cues from us.  We told our daughter that she was visiting these gorgeous places to learn and enjoy and spend quality family time.  She brought her phone on the trip, but she didn’t use it during the day. And I did post a few photos to my Facebook account, but usually at the end of the day, as we only relied on the hotel’s Wi-Fi in the evenings.

igottacreate_social_media_icon_tutorial_550I know the internet is wonderful for many things, as is social media, especially when promoting awareness of serious issues, or even just keeping up with friends.  But could we please teach our kids to limit some of this phone time?  Technology is the worst time sucker and distractor from the joys of real life. Encourage them to play outside, read a book or engage in a family board game.  Kids today are constantly on their phones and they take them everywhere. I know it’s not easy, as a parent of a teenager myself, I know it’s difficult to get them interested in other things. And everyday there are more sites to subscribe to…Vine, Snapchat, Ask.FM, WhatsApp, etc.  For those of you with young tweens and teens, I encourage you to randomly check your children’s accounts.  We all know how bad peer pressure can be, especially with Instagram, and the battle they face with how many people “like” their photo.

I do enjoy social media (how else would I pen my blog?) Facebook has given me an oppurtunity to reconnect with childhood friends, that truthfully, I would have probably never heard from again. But I do think there are limits, and I just sometimes wonder if we as a society, have forgotten what those limits are. (Click here to watch a great clip of what I’m referring to).

How do you feel about social media?  How long would you last without your cell phone?

PC vs. iMac?

Well, it’s that time again, time to upgrade my computer.  My current one is almost 7 years old…yes, you read correctly, 7 years old!  It’s so old, I couldn’t even download the free trial version of Photoshop! I know that nowadays, everyone seems to update their toys (phones, tablets, computers), almost on a yearly basis, but I sometimes tend to follow the train of thought “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” (well not really, I just hate learning how to operate new electronic gadgets).  And when it comes to leaning how to operate these new gadgets, hubby is not much help. He hates it even more than I do.  Every time I need to upgrade my computer, I always come across the same question…is it finally time to make the switch?  Of course, by the “switch”, I mean from a PC to a Mac.  Let me start by saying that I love all things Apple.  I can’t live without my iPhone, everyone in my house owns one.  We also love our iPads and we listen to all our music through iTunes. As my husband says I love Apple, because all of their products are “pretty”.  As usual, he’s right.  I just love how beautiful the iMac is. But, beauty is not everything.  Every time I sit and use an iMac, after 5 minutes, I feel like I need a drink!  I don’t like the mouse, I don’t like Safari, and the “windows” all look weird to me…everything is in the wrong place!  Then hubby says  he “needs” to have a PC at home and he doesn’t like the iMac at all.  Now, I know many of you will disagree with me because you love the Macs, and that’s OK.  I think there are plenty of computers out there to fit everyone’s needs.

My new Dell...

My new Dell…

So…PC wins again.  We decided on a Dell All-in-One with a 27″ touch screen.  Well, at least it looks a bit like the iMac, but it’s still a Windows platform, which is what we’re used to.  Although of course, I think Windows 8.1 will drive me to drink too! All of those colorful boxes look very “pretty”, but it takes time getting used to.  Thank goodness there is still the desktop option.

Which do you prefer…PC or iMac???

The Blogmopolitan Quiz

Have you ever heard of a Blogmopolitan Quiz? Well I had not, until I recently came across one a few days ago on I blog that I follow Two Thirds Hazel, (a really fun blog).  Apparently, there have been two other quizzes created prior to this one, all for us bloggers to get to know each other better, and of course, for fun too (who doesn’t love these internet quizzes?).

After finally figuring out how to complete this quiz on Photoshop (yeah, in my humble opinion, not the most user-friendly program)… here is my Blogmopolitan Quiz with some burning questions you may want answered!  Enjoy!

The Blogmopolitan Quiz 2

 You can get your own quiz to share in the fun HERE and it is also a fun link up (my first)!!!!