Small Businesses: What People Don’t Know


boise-paper

This post was sponsored. Because Christmas is coming up and baby wants a pony. 

The day after Black Friday is Small Business Saturday.

I feel like I run two small businesses, aside from working full time in my regular career.

My husband has an engineering firm that he established when I was eight months pregnant with our oldest daughter (perfect timing- NOT!)

The blog is run as a business.

I understand the nuances of hiring employees and subcontractors, as well as the importance of having quality products to help make a best “first impression.”

We use paper to print graphic designs, send proposal letters, make presentations, create marketing materials, and for general office letterhead.

Why is it important to think about your paper purchase? Ostensibly, it seems this doesn’t matter and that paper is one-size-fits all.

Wrong.

I judge people who use paper that appears cheap and flimsy.

Shallow, but true. (#keepingitreal)

For instance. Consider when you’re at the greeting card rack at Target. The quality of card you purchase depends on the recipient. Kids’ birthday party? Go with the .99 cent area because you know the kid won’t care about the poor quality and the card will be trashed (or lost) within two days of it being opened. It’s the thought that counts, right?

But what if you’re buying a sympathy card for a death? Or it’s Boss’s day? Then you go with the fancier Hallmark card with better texture and superior colors.

With printer paper, here is a clear difference in value and performance between the options on the shelf.

Selecting the right paper can ensure the colors pop off the page, black ink doesn’t bleed to the other side, paper doesn’t jam in the printer (my personal pet peeve!), printed pages look amazing, and you get the most out of every single solitary sheet.

Don’t believe me about the quality of paper making a huge difference?

Here, I tested Boise POLARIS Premium Multipurpose paper against the Equivocal Hammermill product: Hammermill Premium Multipurpose. I received reams of both types of paper to touch, feel, and test.

While the differences are outlined below, what cannot be reflected in the photographs is that the POLARIS paper was slightly heavier than the competitor paper. A paper that is too sheer can not only make a document feel less sophisticated, but it can also make it impossible to print on both sides.

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The POLARIS paper is on the right, and the Hammermill paper is on the left.

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The POLARIS paper is on the right, and the Hammermill paper is on the left. I noticed the Hammermill paper is more see-through, while the ink appeared richer on the POLARIS paper.

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The POLARIS paper is on the right, and the Hammermill paper is on the left. Notice the difference in the opacity of the paper and the richer appearance of ink on the POLARIS paper.

A few other perks about Boise POLARIS Premium Multipurpose paper: it carries a 99.0% jam-free performance guarantee that is certified by a third party, the Buyers Laboratory, Inc.. Further, it is available in three different weights, depending on your needs. It is made in the good ole’ U-S-of-A and is made from wood fibers that come from a sustainably-managed forest. Lastly, and my favorite, is that all paper packages include Box Tops for Education, so you can learn money for local schools while also getting a great printed document (read my blog post about Box Tops here).

Cheers for a great product and getting a lot of bang for your buck!

    The Customer’s Always Right


    Customer service and workers who are annoying | The Champagne Supernova

    It blows my mind how businesses, especially small ones, permit employees to be rude to their clients and customers.

    Take The Write Stuff, for instance. They sell the loveliest invitations, gifts, and home decor and accessories on this side of the Mason-Dixon, but the older man who works there is consistently rude. Like he’s annoyed that someone dared to enter the store and ask him to ring something up, causing him to do his freaking job. And Heaven forbid a customer request that something is gift wrapped because they might as well be asking him to lasso the moon.

    South Tampa people, you feel my pain, you really do.

    But I love their Rifle Paper Company stationery so I keep returning.

    What’s more stifling is when the business owner is the rude one.

    He or she spends time, energy, and moolah on marketing materials and public relations but is too dumb to realize the lasting impact of poor customer service.

    Like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld: No referral for you! No return business for you!

    I have a hard time relating to those who are nasty “business minded” people.

    In my “real job” as an attorney, I’m required to adhere to strict client reporting guidelines and similar deadlines Courts impose regarding responding to a complaint, answering discovery, and preparing for trial. Blowing a deadline could result in sanctions, losing a client or, worse, a legal malpractice case. I also respond to all client emails within 24 hours of them being sent (sometimes even on weekends, to the extent reasonable) in the interest of having them know I am on top of something. As the legal field is saturated with attorneys, my colleagues work hard to secure clients and keep them happy because we know there are hundreds of other lawyers who would love for the client to be their own.

    In my “side job” as a blogger, I work hard to obtain sponsorships. To a lay person, companies pay bloggers to promote their services or products, which result in sponsored posts via a blog post or social media promotions, or both. (According to the Federal Trade Commission, sponsored posts must be conspicuously disclosed to the reader.) All of these sponsorships involve contracts with strict deadlines regarding the date and time to post. I work hard to ensure I comply with all deadlines. In rare instances where I cannot meet a deadline (like two weeks ago, when the internet went down at my house and the technician couldn’t come until five days later) I let the client know ahead of time and either secure an extension or give them the option to bow out of the contract.

    It’s not all bad. I want to tell you about an exemplary customer service experience.

    Last November, I was invited to attend a “girls night out” with friends and, like most women, had “nothing to wear,” despite having a closet full of clothes (some of which still had the tags). During my lunch break, I rushed to the Nordstrom at the International Plaza, quickly retrieved the perfect winter-white jumpsuit from Topshop, and did a little internal crying once I reached the check-out counter. The associate was brand spanking new (it was her first day on the job!) and took her forever to ring up the long line of other customers ahead of me. As in, The Sandlot forever.  FOR-EV-ER.

    via GIPHY

    Once I finally made it to the front of the line, it took the sales associate ten minutes to ring up my ONE jumpsuit.

    When I arrived back at the house after work, I was pressed for time. I had a couple minutes to shower, refresh my makeup (as in, putting new makeup on top of old makeup- don’t judge!), spray some dry shampoo, get dressed, and call Uber to take me to the restaurant where I was meeting my friends.

    When I retrieved the outfit from the bag, it caught my eye.

    The security tag was still attached.

    The sales associate forgot to remove it.

    This was no small tag that I could easily hide. It was black, the length of a stapler, and was a huge contrast from the white outfit.

    Desperate, I tried to remove it myself. No dice.

    So I did something I’m ashamed of, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

    I got on the phone, called Nordstrom, asked to speak with the manager, and unleashed Hell.

    I was crazy. I was another person. I am not proud of who that person was.

    I was furious about the sales associate. I was so patient while I was in the store. Didn’t get annoyed when her being slow cost me time at lunch. And this was the thanks I got?

    via GIPHY

    I swear that if that call was recorded for quality control purposes and someone finds it and connects it to me, it’ll damage my chances of ever running for public office.

    Instead of meeting fire with fire, the manager calmly advised that she would send an associate to meet me at my destination to remove the security tag.

    Wait.

    What?

    As in, Nordstrom was rectifying the mistake by going out of their way to come to a location that was convenient to me to remove it.

    Are you kidding me? After I was so rude and obnoxious?

    If this were any other store, the lady on the other end of the phone would have pretended to sympathize with my situation and advised me that I’d have to come back to the store to have it removed.

    An hour later, as I was enjoying wine with friends, a sweet Nordstrom associate met me at the restaurant and removed the tag.

    It was incredible.

    But this is what sets Nordstrom apart from its competitors.

    When I told a girlfriend this story, she pointed out that she returned some sunglasses to Nordstrom several months after she bought them (with no receipt, only the credit card she used to purchase the item) and Nordstrom gave her a refund with no questions asked.

    Nordstrom might be pricier than some of the other stores, but the customer service and overall experience are bar none. I don’t mind paying a little bit more when I know I am going to be treated like a customer who is truly valued.

    I wish more professionals would adopt the philosophy that the customer is always right, even though my behavior in response to the associate’s honest mistake- no matter how irritating it was to me- was completely wrong.

    Cheers!

    By the way, I am receiving nothing from Nordstrom to write this post and I didn’t ask for anything. I just believe they deserve a nod for exemplifying how customer service should truly be. 

      Thoughtful Thinking


      How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

      The post is sponsored. The blog ain’t gonna pay for itself (and I’m due for low-lights!)

      How many times have we thought about doing something special for someone to show our gratitude for them and, while our intentions were good, life got in the way and we never got around to doing it? Or maybe we did it, but not the way we envisioned.

      This happens to me all the time.

      A personalized “happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo” phone call in your best Beyoncé impression becomes a short “HBD!” text message.

      Making a home cooked meal and driving it to the house of a sick relative becomes an Uber Eats delivery.

      Visiting a friend and her new baby in the hospital becomes hiring Betty-Sue’s Florist to deliver carnations in a beat up minivan.

      Sigh.

      We all have busy lives. Carpools. Work deadlines. Soccer practice. Tennis matches. Trips to the grocery story. Trying to survive the chaos.

      But when did it become acceptable to let being busy get in the way of being thoughtful and showing gratitude? This post here made me realize that life is too short to take someone for granted. To assume there would be another time to tell them you cared.

      Then, I recently discovered one of my newest favorite companies. A company that makes it easy to be thoughtful and show the ones we love they are appreciated.

      I am a huge enthusiast of supporting small businesses that make our already busy lives easier.

      Thanks to Bond, sending a personalized note is as easy as shooting off an email. Seriously.

      As in, they have an app and you can do it from your phone.

      Riding the subway.

      On an elevator.

      In an airplane.

      Standing in line for a Frappuccino.

      Laying on the couch in your pajamas. (Me over here!)

      Bond allows you to send beautiful, handwritten notes on customizable, high quality stationery from your phone or computer, and they make it easier than ever to make a habit of being thoughtful.

      I tend to be slow-to-learn when dealing with new technology, but it only took me about five minutes to send these personalized note cards to my loved ones directly from my smart phone on the Bond App.

      Five minutes!

      And even better, the Bond app even addresses the notes, slaps a stamp on them, and has them delivered to the recipient.

      Viola!

      When you download the app, you can send your first note to a friend or loved one for free!

      See the fruits of my non-laborious labor here:

      How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

      How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

      How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

      How to be thoughtful and show gratitude | The Champagne Supernova

      The new Bond app simplifies being thoughtful and showing gratitude- just in time for Thanksgiving and the holidays.

      Cheers to that!

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      How to show gratitude and be thoughtful toward others | The Champagne Supernova

        Getaway Giveaway | The Vinoy and Some of My Favorite Things


        Win a two-night stay at this beauty courtesy of The Champagne Supernova.

        Win a two-night stay at this beauty courtesy of The Champagne Supernova.

        It might almost be Thanksgiving, but it’s (almost) always summer in sunny Florida. And boy, am I ever thankful!

        I started The Champagne Supernova in December of 2014 and can’t believe how much it’s grown. I’ve connected with so many great people, not just in the Tampa community, but throughout the world.

        I recently reached an Instagram milestone by hitting 30,000 followers and feel honored to have such an engaged community of moms, dads, grandmas, college students, single moms, working moms, professionals, hobbyists, decorators, wine enthusiasts, and friends.

        As a way to show my gratitude, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to create a “Getaway Giveaway” by enjoying two nights at my favorite hotel and giving away some of my favorite things. The winner will receive all of the following:

        (I want so badly to burst out in song: raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… these are a few of my favorite things…)

        To enter:

        1. “Share” this giveaway page on your personal Facebook page; and

        2. Subscribe to my blog.

        You must do both. (Current blog subscribers will already be credited that part of the giveaway entry and all they have to do is share this giveaway page on their personal Facebook pages.)

        The winner will be chosen at random and notified via e-mail at 8 p.m. EST on November 25, 2016. You have until then to enter! Be sure to use the e-mail account that you actually check as the e-mail you are using to subscribe to the blog! (This date was extended due to some technical difficulty precluding people from being able to subscribe to the blog!)

        Me and my tribe on St. Pete Beach.

        Me and my tribe on St. Pete Beach.

        Disclaimer: The two nights at the Vinoy must be consecutive and the winner must notify me of the dates they choose at least four (4) weeks in advance. All dates are available except holidays / holiday weekends (e.g., Martin Luther King, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). The prize must be used by December 31, 2017. The winner must acknowledge receipt of the prize within 48 hours of being notified; otherwise, it will go to the next person. (Sorry for the crazy lawyer legalese!)

        Thanks for the support, good luck, and Cheers! xo

          Tips: How to Help a Grieving Person


          Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog
          Some people are lucky to never have to deal with grief.

          The kind that’s crippling.

          The kind of grief that makes you sleep during the day and awakens you at night.

          The kind that makes you forget to eat or paralyzes you from functioning.

          The kind of grief where, because of the loss, you’ve accepted the world will never again feel the same.

          Some of us have never felt that type of grief. We may have lost grandparents or distant loved ones, but those people were older, their time came, it was painful to lose them, but also exemplified the circle of life, and so it was.

          Sometimes we feel so stressed by the pressures of everyday life that we forget how good we truly have it. Racing to get to kids’ birthday parties. Unloading the hundreds of dollars of groceries from the car and getting them inside the house. Career deadlines. Getting locked outside the house. Rainy days when you wanted to go to the beach.

          Then we see someone who experiences such horrible grief or sadness that we are reminded our “stressors” are small stuff.

          And we don’t know how to treat that grieving person.

          Because we don’t know how we would handle being in their shoes.

          We want to reach out to the grieving person, but we might not know them “that” well, or addressing their sadness feels awkward, so instead, we do nothing.

          It’s not because we don’t care or because we aren’t thinking about them, it’s just because it’s difficult to know the right thing to do without feeling we are overreaching or doing something that “isn’t our place.”

          In 2015, my high school classmate, Heather Gast, experienced true sadness. The kind that you see on the televison and wonder how you could ever go on if it happened to you.

          I watched the events unfold as Heather bravely kept everyone informed via Facebook, and I closed the door to my office at work, read the updates on my computer screen, and sobbed.

          Like seeing tragedy occur in other peoples’ lives, I wanted to reach out to Heather and give her a hug. Tell her I was praying for her. Tell her I’m so sorry and there were no words but that she and her family would be on my mind.

          So many of us feel this way. We want to be there for the grieving person, but don’t know how.

          Heather has been kind enough to share her story and her insight about the people who showed their support and helped to make the loss more bearable.

          Here is the story, in Heather’s words.

          In March of 2010, I married the love of my life. Just over three years later, we began the crazy journey into parenthood when we welcomed our beautiful twins, Nathan and Sophia. The first years were dotted with career changes, moves and chasing babies. Life was crazy, but we managed to settle into life as a family just fine.

          Then, in March of 2015, I discovered what I initially thought was the flu was actually a surprise pregnancy. I soon found out that our then 14-month-old twins would have a little brother. I was shocked, but elated! My husband and I were definitely open to baby number three, but it happened a lot sooner than we anticipated. The next several months were filled with routine OB appointments, tiredness from chasing my toddlers around, deciding on nursery decor, and looking forward to my third November baby, due just before the holidays. I missed the newborn snuggles stage, and was really happy to have another baby to add to the armful!

          Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog

          Henry’s pregnancy announcement that was shared with friends, family, and on social media.

          We took maternity photos. Sweet friends threw me a baby shower. After a traumatic birth experience with my twins, I looked forward to an uncomplicated singleton delivery. There were no pregnancy complications, and our sweet boy passed every scan with flying colors. I managed to dodge the bullets of swelling and pregnancy induced hypertension this round. I was relieved. This time there would be no NICU. I made it to 40 weeks.

          Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog

          Maternity session during pregnancy with Henry. Photo Credit: Ann Axon Photography.

          At 40 weeks and 3 days, my husband and I decided it was time to meet our son. We hadn’t finished the nursery yet, but it didn’t matter. We were going to meet him.

          The day was November 9th.

          That is the day our family was changed forever.

          At 5:52 p.m., Henry James was born. It was a beautiful birth. My doctor and the OR staff were nothing short of amazing. My husband got to watch our baby’s birth. I’ll never forget the soft little cry I heard and feeling the warm tears of relief rolling down my cheeks.

          Henry was here.

          We heard him cry.

          He’s okay.

          But we soon learned that things were far from okay.

          Within minutes of his birth, the NICU staff assembled around Henry. He began to turn purple and struggled to breathe, and his oxygen saturation levels remained low. Henry was immediately taken to the NICU so the doctors could figure out what was wrong. I sent my husband after them, while I stayed behind as my OB was still sewing me up.

          I was wheeled to recovery.

          Alone.

          Again.

          With empty arms.

          How was this even happening?

          My husband and I remained hopeful. My OB and the attending nurses assured me that some babies just need a little help transitioning from inside the womb. Henry probably needed some supplemental oxygen. I waited in the recovery room for what seemed like an eternity. The recovery nurse kept calling the NICU for updates and information on Henry’s condition. It was shortly after that we received the news that Henry needed to be airlifted to a children’s hospital, more than 80 miles away.

          Thankfully, the nurses wheeled me into the NICU before the flight crew wheeled Henry away. He was beautiful, and had a thick head of hair like is big brother Nathan. I reached out to touch him, and he grabbed my finger. I was a goner. I was in love. The attending neonatologist suspected a cardiac issue, but Henry needed further testing that our birth hospital was not able to provide.

          Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog

          Henry, after he was placed on life support.

          That night, we learned Henry had a defect with his pulmonary veins, and would need surgery right away. My hours-old son was 80 miles away, and there was nothing I could do for him.

          I never felt so powerless.

          The next few days were a blur. By the next morning, Henry had deteriorated so much that he developed hypoxemia and was placed on a machine considered to be the last ditch “Hail Mary” of baby life support. Henry was very sick. He was diagnosed with what we later learned was an exceptionally rare and serious congenital heart defect: Obstructed Total Anomalous Pulmonary Veinous Return (“TAPVR”).

          The obstructed kind.

          The “critical” version of this defect because, not only was the “plumbing” around Henry’s heart all wrong, his veins were also abnormally thin. Tragic fact: TAPVR is most often discovered after birth, because the pulmonary veins are not visible on routine anatomy scans. Or even on the level 2 scans that I had. Henry was due to have his open heart surgery on Friday, November 13th. Henry’s cardiologists determined that he had healed and was stable enough for surgery.

          But this was not to be.

          Over the course of that Thursday evening, Henry suffered a catastrophic complication that necessitated his removal from the life support machine. He wasn’t going to make it. We had to let him go. My husband consented to the withdrawal of life support. At 3:02 a.m. on November 13, 2015, Henry drew his last breath on Earth and took his first in Heaven. Our world has never been the same since.

          There we were, my husband and I, left in profound grief and shock. Instead of cuddling our newborn son at home, introducing him to family and friends, we were sitting in a funeral home making arrangements.

          Purchasing a tiny casket.

          Choosing a burial plot.

          How were we ever going to get through this?

          The days, weeks, and months that followed Henry’s tragic death have been the most difficult our family has faced. However, this time also really taught me about caring for those who are grieving. When tragedy strikes a friend or loved one, most of us are left wondering what to do and how to help.

          I can attest to the fact that those who are grieving are just trying to survive, and they don’t have the energy to advocate for themselves and reach out for the help and support that they so desperately need. I wanted to share some simple do’s and don’ts, and I hope that they will help you find ways to reach out and help your friends and loved ones who may be grieving.

          Tips, do's and don't for how to help a person who is grieving | The Champagne Supernova blog

          Do show up with food. I know this one might sound a little silly, but keeping a hurting family fed removes a HUGE burden. My friend, Keri, organized a month-long meal planner for us, and we had meals delivered several nights a week. We were grateful for the food, but even more so for the familiar friendly faces, hugs, and company. If you don’t cook, consider sending a gift card to a favorite restaurant or mail a care package with all of the essential (read: disposable) cups, plates, and utensils.

          Don’t disappear because you don’t know what to do or say. I repeat, don’t disappear because you don’t know what to do or say! Trust me when I tell you that, to a person who is grieving the loss of a loved one, silence is deafening. I was amazed at the people who I barely knew who came out of the woodwork with texts, calls, cards, and who showed up to support our family at Henry’s funeral. I can’t even begin to tell you how much it hurt to have people who I thought were close friends and even family members not reach out. The friends who I had been there for who never even so much as sent a text message. I felt so sad and even a little angry. I may have moved forward and forgiven those people, but their lack of support is difficult to forget.

          If you did disappear, it is NEVER too late to reappear. This is important. I had many friends who eventually reached out, and were honest about not knowing what to do or say. They worried about hurting me by saying the wrong thing, and were trying to give me space. Just know that it is totally okay to not know what to say! You don’t even have to say anything. Just be there.

          Don’t say, “let me know if you need anything.” Just don’t say it. This puts the responsibility on the grieving person or family to coordinate their help. Please don’t do this. If you really want to help, ask when you can bring a meal, or when you can help clean, or whatever it is that you know would help the grieving friend the most. We will gladly accept.

          Do say their loved one’s name. Talk about them. Even nearly a year later, friends often mention Henry by name. It is such a gift when the people in my life talk about my Henry or ask about him, and often say they are willing to listen anytime I want to talk about him. Some people have said that they worry about reminding me about my loss, but no one needs to worry about reminding me. I’ll never forget that Henry was here, and that now he’s gone. Acknowledge often. It’s a wonderful thing.

          It’s common knowledge that death is a part of living. It is a certainty that every last one of us will be touched by grief during our lifetime. Our society often doesn’t do well with caring for those who are thick in the weeds of their grief journey, but it really doesn’t have to be this way. As long as we have compassion, we can find ways to come alongside those who are hurting and love them.

          Feed them.

          Talk to them.

          Listen to them.

          Hug them.

          Be there.

          Having walked the difficult path of grieving my son for nearly a year, it has given me the gift of perspective. Being Henry’s mom has made me a more compassionate human, and seeing the impact his life has made in the lives of so many has truly been a gift.

          Tips for how to help a person who is grieving after losing a loved one | The Champagne Supernova blog

          The Gasts’ 2016 holiday card, which honors Henry. Photo credit: Ann Axon Photography.

          The most heartfelt thanks goes out to Heather for having the courage to share her family’s story. Henry is gone but never forgotten.

          Cheers!

            Pet Peeve: Don’t Use Me, Bro!


            feeling-used-by-other-people

            At this stage of the game, all of us are old and wise enough to know when we’re being used.

            Smart enough to see through the shenanigans.

            The event triggering this post happened last Wednesday.

            I’m at my desk sorting through Motions and medical records when the following email popped up on my Outlook. Easily distracted, I clicked the little bubble on the bottom right corner of my screen.

            Below are the contents of the email with my commentary in parenthesis.

            Hi Jennifer,

            I came across your name on LinkedIn and wanted to say hello. (Stalker!) I found you because I like to meet like-minded folks (oh, so you’re a psychopath too?) in the Tampa area and, in all honesty (as opposed to dishonesty?), form new relationships or connections (that’s not very honest, you want me to help you in some way). We are both in lines of work where we may be able to help each other, or act as a local resource for one another (alrighty, dude, what do you want from me?). Let me know if you’re up for meeting for a quick coffee one day (there’s no such thing as a “quick coffee”.) At the very worst, I’ll cover your coffee (gee, thanks… because my time isn’t worth more than $3) and won’t take up too much time- but hopefully, we’ll get to chat and get familiarized with each other and the work that we do for clients.

            Hope you are well!

            Aaron (That’s a lie, but his real name rhymes with Derrick.)

            The signature line below was a lot more revealing.

            Just as I suspected, Aaron is a financial planner. He wants me to invest with him.

            “You wanna invest? I got some nice, shiny quarters for ya!”

            Aaron, just be completely up front about your motives from the beginning.

            Delete.

            I hate emails like these.

            I used to receive about five a week when I first started practicing law. Financial planners who wanted me to invest with them right out of the gate, without major expenses and with lots of money to invest. (Or so they thought.)

            If I tallied up all of the emails I’ve received like this, there would be hundreds. No joke.

            I’m sure any type of professional routinely receives emails of this nature.

            My husband has his own structural engineering firm (plug… how’s that for being transparent?), and I know he’s constantly getting approached to join strangers for “beers,” “coffee,” and “lunch.”

            It’s only through my experience that I immediately smell the rat and move on. But in my younger days, I would have taken Aaron up on this offer because I enjoy meeting “like-minded people,” only to have been disappointed. It’s similar to the first time you received an email from “The Desk of Mr. [name]” who, in weird Engish, requests a charity donation for a family member who suffered a brain hemorrhage while visiting some remote African country. It’s the same basic plot- there’s an emergency and won’t you please wire them some money? Don’t worry, they will repay you tenfold as gratitude for your kindness and generosity. The first time I got an email like this, I wanted to contact the United Nations so they could send assistance to whatever African country the guy was emailing about so they could please get this poor soul some help.

            Now I get these emails and delete them.

            I’ve seen it most frequently in the financial planning arena but, don’t get me wrong, have a few close friends who work in this field who I love and admire. Then, there are the ones who are constantly hitting people up in a super sneaky way and it’s annoying.

            For instance, one of my college sorority sisters got her feelings hurt a couple years back when she agreed to have lunch with an acquaintance whom she hadn’t seen in a decade. Out of the blue, the girl reached out to my friend, faked an interest in her marriage and birth of twins, invited her to lunch for the sake of “catching up”, and then BAM… asked her to invest with her company with her serving as the financial planner.

            My friend left lunch feeling used. Rightfully so. She never invested with the other girl. And she was maddddddd.

            Let me be clear. I am aware of and respect that everyone has to use their connections and personal relationships to promote themselves and to grow their businesses. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.

            Ain’t no problem with the hustle.

            I do it too.

            The problem is when people aren’t immediately candid about their true motives. The problem is when people try to get what they want using “sneak attack” antics. It’s bad business. 

            All Aaron had to say to me in the email was “I’d love to discuss financial planning with you- are you already working with someone? Can we have coffee to go over it and, if you’re not interested, that’s fine?”

            Then, I would have respected Aaron. I would have told him we don’t need anyone but that I would keep his name in mind if the opportunity presented itself or for referrals for someone else who might be interested.

            But nooooooooooooooooo. Aaron sent me an evasive email and tried to trick me into joining him for coffee so he could subsequently launch his sneak attack.

            What a turnoff.

            Drops mic.

            Cheers to honesty and transparency!

              Shopping: Top Ten Ways to Hide Your Loot from Your Husbands


              how-to-hide-shopping-from-husband

              The only reason I maintain gainful employment is so I have an alternate place to ship boxes of stuff I buy shopping online so my husband won’t find out.

              Okay. And because I have law school loans and a mortgage.

              But still.

              My primary vice is Amazon, especially because I have Prime membership. I subconsciously feel like I’m getting a “good deal” because the shipping is free, even though I actually spend more money than I would under normal circumstances. And the product arrives two days from the date of purchase, so I don’t have to impatiently sit around and wait for whatever useless tchotchke to show up the way I do with the regular 5-7 day ‘biz the other retailers offer.

              Because I “need” things like one hundred children’s hair bows (I’m a mom of girls), a tape measure, a “Haunted Battlefields of the Civil War” book, non-toxic nail polish, a Ronald Reagan face mask, windshield wipers, and a Patrick Dempsey pillowcase.

              And you know what? It doesn’t matter that I work and bring home the bacon. When multiple boxes arrive at my door step on the same day, my husband usually ends up questioning me about them.

              What’s in those boxes?

              Your mom.

              So.

              After seven years of marriage and thirty-four years of sneakiness, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten places to hide your shopping loot so it will be out of sight from your husbands.

              You’re welcome.

              1. The Cleaning Supply Cabinet. The good Lord knows your husbands have never looked there and probably aren’t aware this is even a “thing” in your home.

              2. The Gym. It’s the year of the Dadbod.

              3. Bring them Home Already Wrapped. And say they’re gifts for someone else.

              4. Replace the “Real Bags” with Bags from Kids’ Clothing Stores. Most dudes are uninterested in the contents of packages from Janie and Jack, Gymboree and, worst of all, The Disney Store.

              5. The Crack Between the Front Seat and the Center Console. This obviously only works for smaller items, but your husbands will never stick their fingers down there for fear of getting them stained with half-melted M&Ms or by touching a dirty, misplaced sock.

              6. Empty Shoe Boxes. Keep them in your closet for storing goods.

              7. Claim You’ve Owned it Forever. This is one of my personal favorites. I bust out with a new ensemble (after the tags are off) and my husband asks when I got it. I look at him and incredulously roll my eyes and declare “In college! Seriously?! I’ve worn this a million times!” He gets so confused.

              8. Tell Him You’re Holding the Loot for Your Friend. Who is hiding it from her husband.

              9. Tell Him the Package is a Present for HIM. By the time the holidays roll around, he won’t even remember. Or if he does, just say you changed your mind and returned it. BOOM.

              10. At Your Boyfriend’s House. I dunno guys, Diff’rent Strokes for Diff’rent Folks. (Kidding!)

              junior-league-of-tampa

              Confession. One of my favorite yearly shopping events is the Junior League of Tampa’s Holiday Gift Market.

              The Holiday Gift Market is the Junior League of Tampa’s largest annual fundraising event. Think of it as a flea market with stuff you actually want.  It will feature 150 merchants, with 20 that are completely new to the event. Some of my favorites among this year’s merchants and participants are Sunshine State Goods, The Blue Hen, Coton Colors, hazel + dot, and Toffee to Go. Best of all, the Junior League of Tampa commits 100% of the proceeds to fund its mission of promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

              Holiday Gift Market 2015: Me and some of the ladies at the beginning of the night.

              Holiday Gift Market Kickoff Party 2015: Me and some of the ladies at the beginning of the night.

              Come on out to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the kickoff party on Thursday, November 10 between 7 PM and 10 PM, and stay for the shopping from Friday, November 11 through Sunday, November 13.

              Where: Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, 4800 U.S. Highway 301 N., Tampa, FL 33610
              Hours: Thursday, November 10- 7 PM – 10 PM
              Friday, November 11- 9 AM to 6 PM
              Saturday, November 12- 9 AM to 6 PM
              Sunday, November 13- 9 AM to 5 PM
              Cost: $8 at the door and $5 in advance if purchased from Junior League members.  Don’t know any? No sweat. You can also purchase them online through Eventbrite: http://www.hgm2016.eventbrite.com
              Parking fee: $6 cash (who carries cash anymore?) paid directly to the Florida State Fairgrounds

              Preview Party: The Preview Party is a Junior League tradition, which includes a sneak peak at this year’s best new gift ideas, live entertainment, food samplings from local restaurants, raffle, cash bar, and more. This event is open to the public, and tickets are $35. VIP tickets are available for $65 and include a VIP reception at the market beginning at 6:30 PM, a VIP gift, three drink tickets, and complimentary VIP parking. Oh, and did I mention it will feature some of my favorite sweets from The Silly Monkey Cookie Company? The preview party is Thursday, November 10 between 7 PM and 10 PM.

              Me and some of the crew at the end of the night. Not pictured: red wine stains on my white romper. Pictured: the $10 flip flops purchased from the college mascot vendor. (My dogs were barking. But it was fun and worth it.)

              Me and some of the crew at the end of the night. Not pictured: red wine stains on my white romper. Pictured: the $10 flip flops purchased from the college mascot vendor. (My dogs were barking. But it was fun and worth it.)

              This year’s Holiday Gift Market will also offer the following concierge services:
              Gift Wrap: For the first time evah, the Junior League will offer gift wrap for a nominal fee. See number 3 above.
              Bag Check: Don’t worry, these ladies will free up your hands so you can shop more. Warning: you might need a bigger car.
              Man Cave: In case you want your husband to come and know how much money you’ve spent, they can tag along and relax on oversized sofas and lounge chairs with giant flat screens and sports. Oh, and beer.
              Mother’s Nook. (Read: a breastfeeding, diaper-changing mama’s mecca).

              The market will also feature a series of special events.

              Candle Pouring Social: Saturday, November 12 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM and 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM.  For $35 per ticket, enjoy a candle pouring social with the Tipsy Candle Company.  Participants will pour two candles with signature scents for the holiday season. Be inspired to “Give a Candle and Keep a Candle” during this event with music, snacks, and refreshments.

              Princess Meet and Greet: Sunday, November 13. Enjoy an encounter with four princesses courtesy of Parties with Character. Each child will feel like royalty as they meet the Princesses who will encourage them to reach for their dreams. The cost is $15 per child, and each child needs a ticket for admission. Visit this link to purchase tickets and see which 15-minute time slots are available: http://hgm2016.eventbrite.com/?aff=HGMFacebook. Adults are able to enter this special event with the purchase of one general admission ticket to the Holiday Gift Market.

              Military Shopping Hour: On Friday, November 11 from 2 PM to 3 PM, the Junior League will provide a special salute to the men and women who courageously dedicate their lives to serving our country.

              holiday-gift-market

              For more details, connect with Junior League’s Holiday Gift Market on social media or, if you have questions, via email at hgmtickets@jltampa.org.

              Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thejlthgm
              Twitter: @jlthgm
              Instagram: @holidaygiftmarket

              What are your sneakiest ways to hide shopping loot from your husbands?

              Cheers to shopping and the ladies of the Junior League of Tampa!

                Life: The Five Screw-Ups that Made a Huge Difference


                how-mistakes-make-your-life-better

                Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

                Who here is tired of seeing ole Ralph’s quotes? Half the time I wonder if he really said some of these things, or if someone just writes something uplifting and then slaps his name on it. (No, I don’t want to research it unless it has a billable code.)

                But someone has a point here.

                I’ve screwed up a couple times in my life.

                Ok, a good number of times.

                But the best times I’ve learned were through my own screw-ups or by witnessing someone else go down in a Blaze of Glory.

                Practice makes perfect?!

                I’ve never learned anything by adhering to adults’ warnings during my youth.

                And certainly, not from my parents who, in my mind, were merely trying to keep me from having a good time.

                I don’t have any degrees or licenses in psychology or sociology or anything like that.

                I’m not a mental health counselor. But a bit mental.

                Just a gal with a couple of decades of mistakes under her belt with time to ponder what worked and what didn’t.

                Here’s my list of the five most valuable lessons. Things I’ve started doing or stopped doing that have made a huge difference.

                1. Contact your parents every day. When you’re in your teens and early twenties, the prospect of your parents dying, if you’re lucky to have both still alive, seems so far away. You imagine they’ll pass peacefully in their sleep in their nineties like Noah and Allie did in The Notebook. 

                Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who have lost one or both of their parents. Some during childhood, some following long battles with terminal illnesses and, for others, unexpectedly and without warning.

                I made a vow that I wouldn’t take another day with both of my parents for granted because I know there’s no guarantee and I’ve witnessed the painful heartache of seeing someone lose someone they loved. My parents are two of the most important people in my life. Accordingly, I make a point to have some type of contact with them every single day, whether it’s a phone call, email, or text message. I don’t want to have regrets.

                There will come a time when I wish I could contact them, but I can’t.

                2. Stop Caring What Other People Think. This one can be tricky. If you didn’t care what other people think, you’d be a sociopath with no friends.  You have to care, to a degree. Just an eensy weensy teeny tiny one.

                Not caring about what other people think requires a balancing being kind and courteous to others while being your true self. It also requires you to decide whose opinions you’ll actually take into consideration when making choices. For me, this number is small and is limited to my immediate family, my husband, a few close friends whose friendships have spanned multiple decades, and my boss (dang, that pesky mortgage!)

                I used to be a slave to other people’s opinions. I used to cringe at the idea of not making someone happy or the prospect that someone could be upset with me. It was exhausting and a waste of time.

                I’ve learned you can try and try and try and try, but there are times someone will never like you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Absent extreme circumstances, most of the time, their reasons for not liking you are meritless. You have a similar voice as their second-grade teacher, who once slapped them on the knuckles with a ruler. You asked their ex-boyfriend to the Sadie Hawkins dance your sophomore year of high school. You once picked them last during a game of dodgeball. You play your music too loud in your car. You’re a dentist and they once had a bad experience getting a tooth pulled. Twenty years ago. By someone else.  Your breath smells like celery, and they’re allergic. You have a great body with tons of friends and the face of an angel, while they are feeling down-and-out about themselves (e.g., the way I feel about Margot Robbie.)

                See how dumb?

                I’ve wasted so much time worrying about the opinions of people who don’t matter. I can never get that time back. And when I decided it was time to stop worrying, the quality of my life (and friendships that really mattered) grew exponentially.

                3. Have a To-Do List. In the past when I felt really overwhelmed, instead of being able to tackle projects, I felt mentally and emotionally paralyzed. I didn’t know where to start.

                Now, I create a “to-do” list of things that I need to accomplish throughout the day. The list isn’t made in order of importance; just whatever needs to be done. I usually keep the list in my purse or in my planner, and add to it throughout the day.

                When performing tasks, I start with the easiest items on the list. The ones that require the least amount of brainpower and stress.

                Paying the electric bill. Emailing someone a confirmation about something. Responding to a text message.

                Then, by the time I attempt the “hard” stuff, I feel like I’ve already accomplished a lot.

                Psychologically, having a list is so important to the Type A crazy person in me. It’s like the adult-version of a baby blanket and, for me, is critical to staying sane and on task.

                Sun Basket

                4. Water Your Own Garden. It’s easy to look across the proverbial fence to see what other people have and feel like your own garden isn’t good enough.

                But it is.

                It’s simple to think someone else has a happier marriage and more well-behaved children and tons of money with plenty of time for champagne wishes and caviar dreams.  Well, they don’t. We all have our struggles and our weaknesses.

                Sure, I’d love to live in a bigger house with a more spacious kitchen and larger backyard in a “better” neighborhood (Tampa peeps: South of Gandy in the heezy), but I also know that would mean a larger mortgage, less money for “family” stuff, and more overall headache.

                It’s normal, albeit unhealthy, to look at what other people have and compare it to what you have and then feel like you’re not good enough. Been there, done that. It’s no fun. But I promise, your real friends don’t care about the size of your house, what kind of car you drive, the brand of clothes you wear, or whether you rub elbows with people who are deemed socially important. Your real friends like you for you.

                So go ahead and rent the matchbox apartment, drive the boxy Scion (y’all know what I’m talking about), and rock the Xhilaration leggings with reckless abandon. The people who matter won’t notice and won’t care.

                5. Know When to Be Quiet. This has been one of my biggest struggles. The biggest. In my younger days, I would say whatever came to my mind, no matter the topic, and if someone got their feelings hurt or it got me into trouble, I would justify myself (and dismiss their feelings) as “just speakin’ my mind.”

                I’ve learned in some situations, it’s better to shut the heck up. Everyone knows what those situations are. And if you want to go ahead and speak your mind, be prepared for potential consequences of hurt relationships. Is it worth it? Nope.

                I guess in life, experience is the best (and sometimes only) way to grow.

                These include screwing up.

                I needed the screw-ups. They were actually gifts.

                Cheers!

                (By the way, what lessons and screw-ups would you put on your own list?)

                  Travel: Five Best Places to Vacation with Kids


                  The best places to go on vacation with kids | The Champagne SupernovaAs fall is in full swing and people are starting to think about where to spend next summer’s vacations, I wanted to create a post dedicated to family-friendly travel. Not the expert, I enlisted the help of my longtime law school friend and fellow blogger, Anastasia, for tips and pointers. I hope you enjoy her perspective, and scoot on over to her blog for travel tips on a budget.

                  Family vacations: where to go, is there anything there to entertain the kids, how much will this cost? I am assuming this is what goes through every parent’s mind when it comes time to plan the family vacation. I bet it feels more like a chore than an adventure, so I am guessing that most people just go back to what they know: Disney.

                  Chad and I don’t have kids yet, but I bet a lot of readers of this blog do, and, since the purpose of this blog is to inspire you to incorporate travel into your life, regardless of what stage in life you are in, I put together a list of the 5 best U.S. cities for family travel. Think of this as an alternative to Disney, because, let’s be honest, how many times can you really visit the mouse’s house without wondering if you (or your wallet!) can take it.

                  In compiling this list, I tried to choose places that were (relatively) budget friendly, that covered the span of the U.S., that had something that appealed to the whole family, regardless of age, and that offered a different experience according to your preference (city vs. beach vs. active/outdoors). Also, I enlisted the help of a friend, former law school classmate, blogger extraordinaire, and super mom, Jennifer from The Champagne Supernova Blog. She actually has kids – two of them! So without further adieu, allow us to save you from yet another Disney trip.

                  Number 1: Washington, D.C.

                  washington_dc

                  Ah, our nation’s capitol! Do you know why this takes the number one spot? Because, once you get there (and getting there is not too expensive on JetBlue), almost all of your activities are free!! That’s right, free! Our nation’s monuments? Free! Museums? Free! In fact, there are over 200 museums in D.C. and almost all of them are free! So, whether your children like art, science, animals, or history, there is a museum that suits their (and your) interests.

                  Another great thing about D.C. is that most of the sites are within walking distance of each other, making it an easy city within which to ambulate. Otherwise, the hop on hop off tours are a great value (also, check Groupon, as they are usually running a special on these tours), allowing you to tour the entire city and Arlington National Cemetery for one or two days while learning about the places you are visiting en-route. This also gives you the flexibility to ride around and see a lot without necessarily having to get off at every stop, and it’s fun to sit on top of the open air bus! Uber is another great option for getting around town.

                  Eat Clean $30.00 Off

                  The only thing that will require advance planning on your part is a tour inside the White House, and all the information you need to plan such a tour can be found here. Advance planning is also needed to tour the U.S. Capitol building, and all the information needed for that can be found here. Finally, you can turn your trip to D.C. into a fun learning experience for your children without them even knowing it! Just take a look at your child’s syllabus for their history or social studies class (or ask their teachers what they are/going to be learning about), and tailor your trip to something they are learning about in school. All these reasons make D.C. a great and affordable choice for families with children of all ages. Beat that, Mr. Mouse!

                  Here is my suggested itinerary for a perfect three-day weekend: Plan to fly/drive in on Thursday late afternoon or evening. After checking into your hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, take a night tour of the monuments to see them lit up or enjoy a free music concert at the Kennedy Center!

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                  Day 1 (Friday): Wake up early and get a good breakfast in you; you’re going to need it! Hopefully, you got tickets to tour the White House, so do that first. If not, you should still swing by and get a gander at it from the outside. After the White House, walk over to the National Mall (see photo above), which has all the major memorials. Start at the Washington Monument (you can pre-buy tickets to go up!). A short distance away is the World War II Memorial. From there, walk through the promenade (bonus if you are there during cherry blossom season) beside the reflecting pool until you reach the Lincoln Memorial. After the Lincoln Memorial, head over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Once you are done here, rent a paddle boat and get a view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Martin Luther King Memorial from either side of the tidal basin. Stop for lunch. After lunch, hit the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress.

                  washington_dc5

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                  Days 2 and 3 (Saturday and Sunday): Make your last 2 days museum days. You can visit dinosaurs and mammals at the National Museum of History, airplanes at the National Air and Space Museum, the U.S.’s only Leonardo Da Vinci painting at the National Gallery of Art, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, or all the cute animals at the National Zoo. If you are looking to take a short half day-trip from the city, consider visiting Arlington National Cemetery where you can see the Kennedy Memorials, Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and Arlington House. You may also consider taking a day trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
                  Number 2: Atlanta, Georgia

                  atlanta1

                  You may be wondering why Atlanta is on the list (and at the number 2 spot). Well, first, it’s pretty cheap to get to (Delta has a lot of reasonably priced flights), and there are actually a lot of family-friendly things to do here. Both the children and the adults can enjoy a fun-filled long weekend in this city. Here is my suggested itinerary for a perfect three-day weekend: Plan to fly/drive in on Thursday late afternoon or evening, and check into your hotel. Depending on when you get in (and their event calendar), you may want to pre-plan to attend a show at Atlanta’s Fox Theater or head to Stone Mountain to catch the fireworks and laser show.

                  atlanta2

                  Day 1 (Friday): Wake up early and get a good breakfast in you, because you are headed to Georgia Aquarium! This place is amazing. It has huge floor to ceiling aquariums full of color and life and plenty of immerse experiences to choose from. For example, you can take the Behind the Seas Tour for $15 and get a closer view of the aquarium’s most popular exhibits. You can also choose from different animal encounters, including a dolphin encounter, Beluga Whale encounter, penguin encounter, sea otter encounter, and even swimming with whales, sharks, and manta rays. The aquarium also has a tactile exhibit where you can reach in and touch sea urchin and other sea critters. And, if you want to be a Super-Parent, you can arrange a sleepover at the aquarium! That’s right, a sleepover. Does the Mouse let you sleep at his house? I don’t think so! (Okay, this is technically not true. You can be randomly selected to win a sleepover inside Cinderella’s castle. You probably have about an equal chance of getting struck by lightning or winning the lottery, so there’s that).

                  After the aquarium, take a walk over to the World of Coca-Cola. Here, you can learn about the history of the Coca-Cola, visit the vault where the secret formula for Coke is stored, meet the Coca-Cola Polar Bear, and, best of all, visit the tasting room and taste as many of the 100+ Coke beverages made and sold around the world. Don’t forget to pick up your free bottle of coke on your way out!

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                  Other family-friendly attractions that add a little history and education include the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Martin Luther King National Historic Site, Underground Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, and Margaret Mitchell House and Museum.

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                  Number 3: New York, New York

                  newyork1

                  Everyone loves the Big Apple, and you and your family cannot run out of things to do here! Both JetBlue and Delta offer reasonable flights into New York (you can also combine a visit to D.C. with a visit to N.Y., and take the train). In my opinion, the best time to visit New York is during the holidays when the city is all dressed up! Here is my suggested itinerary for a perfect three-day weekend: Plan to fly/drive in on Thursday late afternoon or evening, and check into your hotel; then, head straight to Times Square.  It is cheesy and touristy, but it is iconic, and your kids have not lived a full life without at least experiencing it once.

                  Day 1 (Friday):  Wake up early because today you pre-arranged to visit the Statue of Liberty and perhaps even to climb to the crown.  Note, this particular activity will take some advanced planning on your part (especially if you want to go up to the crown), so book tickets early!

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                  When you are done here, head to the 9/11 Memorial, the Empire State Building, and/or Top of the Rock.

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                  Day 2 (Saturday): Visit Central Park, have lunch, and go ice-skating! Afterward, head to one of the city’s many museums like The Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum of American Art, or the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). Here is a list of museums that cater just to children’s interests. You can find free museums or information on special free hours at other museums or museums that have suggested contributions here.

                  newyork5

                  Day 3 (Sunday): Save your Sunday for a Broadway matinee.  Your New York trip is a great way to introduce your children to art, including performance art.  There are several Broadway shows that are suitable for children, like Lion King, Aladdin, and Matilda. A list of kid-friendly shows can be found here. Make sure to pre-book your tickets as the shows sell out fast. If you want to chance it, you have a couple of options short of buying tickets on a third-party site.  The first is to rush to the theater as soon as it opens on the day of the performance and wait in line to buy same-day rush tickets which can sometimes sell for as little as $25.  Some shows sell standing room tickets, which means you will stand to watch the show.  Others, like the Lion King, distribute day-of-show tickets through a lottery.  The other option is to wait in line on the day of the show at the TKTS Booth, which is located under the red steps in Duffy Square (47th Street and Broadway). Almost all of the Broadway hits are on sale there, mostly at 50 percent off. There are also some online options, like the TodayTix app or nytix.com.  Get your discount codes at BroadwayBoxBroadway Insider, and Entertainment-Link.

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                  Before you leave, make it a priority to stop at the Levain Bakery and wait in line for the cookies. They are soooo worth it!

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                  Number 4: Salt Lake City, Utah

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                  The U.S. National Park Service is celebrating its 100th year anniversary this year. If your family is active and looking for a great (outdoor) adventure, then why not visit Utah’s National Parks? Did you know i) that there 5 national parks in Utah (from east to west: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion), ii) that all the national parks are a stone’s throw away from each other, and iii) that they are located just a few hours outside of Salt Lake City? All the info you need to plan an epic national park journey can be found here. This is actually on our bucket list, as a result, all Utah photos used are borrowed from the internet.

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                  Number 5: Hawaii

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                  Okay, so Hawaii isn’t a city; it’s a state, and you may be surprised to see Hawaii on my list, but here it is! Hawaii has gotten cheaper to get to, although it is still an expensive place to visit.  But, if your family craves some amazing beach time coupled with a little history and nature, then this is the place to go. I think that a week here is enough time to visit Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.

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                  Start on Oahu because most flights come into Oahu anyway.  I think 2 to 3 days in Oahu is plenty.  That will give you enough time to visit Pearl Harbor and the battleships on one day, and hit the beach and perhaps hike diamond head on the others.

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                  The flights between the islands are pretty cheap, so hop a flight to Maui, where you will spend the rest of your time.  Aside from beautiful beaches and great snorkeling, in Maui, you can attend a luau, take a drive through the scenic Hana Highway (but, trust me, do this on a tour and not on your own), get a sunrise experience at Haleakala, and take a day trip to the Big Island to visit Volcanoes National Park!

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                  I hope this post has inspired you to break out of your family vacation rut, and seek out a new adventure that the whole family can enjoy.  Let us know what you think of our suggestions, sample itineraries, and tips and whether you would be interested in a similar post featuring international vacations.

                  Until then, cheers to making memories that’ll last a lifetime!

                  About Anastasia: Anastasia is a full-time civil defense litigator with a passion for wanderlusting. She spends her precious free time deciding where to go next, researching the entire trip from flights, to hotels, to tours/activities, and, of course, restaurants. She drags her husband all over the world and then blogs about it on her blog, Where to Next Travel Blog.  Her goal is to encourage you to travel more now because you can, even if you have a full-time demanding job, a family, and a budget.

                  anastasia

                    Lice Lice Baby: How to Get Rid of those Hellish Critters


                    lice-lice-baby

                    My name is Jennifer Burby.

                    I got head lice at the age of 34.

                    From my daughter. Who got it at school.

                    I guess.

                    Who really knows where or how she got it. She just did.

                    I somehow dodged the head lice bullet during my own childhood.

                    Both of my two daughters have been in daycare since they were a couple months old, which are breeding grounds for lice. We would routinely receive emails from their schools advising of lice outbreaks in the classrooms and instructing us to check our children’s hair. Same happened at their summer camps. Neither of my girls ever got it. They’re in the pool a lot, so I chalked it up to lice not liking chlorine.

                    And I’ve gotta be honest here.

                    Until I got it myself, despite rumors that lice preferred clean hair, I thought it was something reserved for country folk.

                    Kissin’ cousins.

                    People who resided in Appalachia and lived off corn dogs and Mountain Dew.

                    I am now one of those people. Maybe it’s karma for being judgy.

                    Let me backtrack.

                    A couple weeks ago, my four-year-old daughter started complaining her scalp was itchy.

                    Thinking it might be head lice, I did a quick examination and found nothing.

                    I guess she has a dry scalp. I’ll have to get her some of that Neutrogena stuff for old people next time I’m at Walgreens.

                    A week later, my mom, who lives out of town, came and spent the weekend at our house.

                    And slept in bed with my daughter.

                    Eat Clean $30.00 Off

                    Next morning, my mom said my daughter kept waking throughout the night, complaining her head was itchy. And she was profusely scratching it.

                    I did another, more thorough investigation, and found tons of tiny white specks resembling sesame seeds (only smaller) throughout her hair.

                    Eggs (nits) in action. This isn't my daughter's hair. It's a photo I stole from the Internet for demonstrative purposes only.

                    This isn’t my daughter’s hair. It’s a photo I stole from the Internet for demonstrative purposes only.

                    Could it be? I thought. Can’t be.

                    So I got on the computer and Asked Jeeves what head lice look like.

                    The search results returned with eggs that looked exactly like the specks in my daughter’s hair.

                    The search engine results also said you’d have to properly identify a live louse (apparently, this is singular of “lice” because I just had to look it up) to confirm the existence of head lice.

                    I wasn’t messing around. This was balls to the walls.

                    I went to the garage and retrieved my husband’s head lamp, which he uses for long runs in the morning when it’s still dark outside.

                    head-lamp

                    I would have put on a HAZMAT suit if I would have owned one.

                    "There's lice in them there hills."

                    “There’s lice in them there hills.”

                    Marched back up into my daughter’s room with the lamp on my noggin and a flicker in my eye.

                    Two minutes later, I spotted one. And then another.

                    Another demonstrative stolen from the Internet.

                    Another demonstrative stolen from the Internet.

                    My ignorance expected lice to be large and conspicuous. Raisins with legs.

                    Nope.

                    They are tiny. Small as fleas. And a light brownish color that makes them hard to detect in dark blond hair.

                    Seeing them made me feel homicidal. Like the moment when Tracy Flick discovers Paul Metzler is running against her for student council president in the movie Election.

                    tracy_flick_election

                    I sped to the nearest pharmacy and searched for the most potent product available. Yes, I am ordinarily hyper sensitive about what I put on my and my families’ bodies.

                    Not this time.

                    I wanted to poison the lice and make them die slow, miserable deaths. I wanted to make them pay for the torment they put my daughter through.

                    (Insert sinister laughter here).

                    I returned to the house armed with Rid, takeout dinner, and a bottle of wine.

                    Git 'er done.

                    Git ‘er done.

                    Three glasses of wine and some elbow grease later, with the help of my mother, all the lice and eggs were gone from my daughter’s hair and she was on her way to dreamland.

                    But then my own head started itching.

                    Like, really itching.

                    Was this my imagination?

                    I started frantically looking through my own hair and saw a little devil staring back at me.

                    The fear of God was in his or her eyes. It knew what was happening next.

                    Then my husband mentioned his head was feeling itchy. But he was unfazed, as he and his younger brothers got lice “several times” in their youthful days of yore.

                    (They grew up in rural Hillsborough County, so that was unsurprising to no one.)

                    I got out the head lamp and examined his head.

                    Yup. He had them too.

                    So.

                    While other married couples were savoring fine wines and filet mignons on their Saturday night, my husband and I were on the couch in front of the tube, watching reruns of Dateline and picking nits out of each others’ hair like a couple of primates.

                    getting_rid_of_head_lice

                    So glamorous.

                    Then, I had an epiphany. Two weeks before, I attended the out-of-town wedding of a longtime college friend. My girlfriends (all of whom have kids) and I spent the hours leading to the wedding getting all dolled up together in the hotel room. This also involved sharing each others’ hair brushes and accessories.

                    So I had to send a text warning them they could have head lice and prayed they didn’t have it and give it to their families.

                    Here’s the other problem. Not being very attentive to detail, I didn’t know I had to put the lice shampoo all over my entire hair and scalp. I thought I only had to put it on my scalp and not on the rest of my hair. So that’s what I did. And they returned several days later.

                    I’m sitting at work and my head is itching like crazy. So I’m going crazy. Trying to prepare for a trial but all I can think about is how my head feels like it’s on fire.

                    I sincerely believe that infesting someone with a pile of head lice would be worse than water boarding.

                    We did everything to get rid of the lice.

                    Even hired a professional lice-killing lady to come to our house, douse our heads in olive oil, and remove the lice and eggs. Five hours, six hundred dollars, and one wasted Sunday later, they were finally gone.

                    Once and for all.

                    Except my head remained subconsciously itchy and I kept buying products to kill any that remained alive. My favorite, hands down, was this stuff right here. They sell shampoo and conditioner, the shipping was quick, it smelled nice, and I had Farrah Fawcett hair after using it. And I’m not being paid one red cent to endorse this product. I genuinely loved it.

                    Here’s the problem with head lice that most people who haven’t had it don’t realize. They reproduce quickly. Just because you wash your hair and kill all the live lice, you still have to contend with their eggs. They all have to be removed from your head. If you leave one behind, that egg will hatch, grow into an adult, and lay more eggs a couple days later. So you really have to stay on top of finding the eggs and destroying them. You also have to wash your sheets and towels, vacuum the house, boil your hair brushes in hot water, and isolate any dolls or stuffed animals that could contain eggs.

                    It’s tedious.

                    But perhaps it’s a parenting rite of passage.

                    A badge of honor.

                    I survived head lice, so I can now get through anything.

                    Finish an Iron Man. Climb Mt. Everest. Swim with sharks.

                    I also want to eliminate the shame associated with getting head lice, which most people deny exists, but really it does.

                    Whatever. Life lice happens.

                    Trying to protect my daughter, I told her she had the case of the “itchies.” I didn’t want her to tell her little friends she had lice in her hair and risk her becoming a pariah. Know what she did? Marched into the school the next day and proudly told her teachers she had bugs in her hair, and that I gave her a “spa night” to get them out.

                    Oh, to be as carefree as a child.

                    Cheers!

                    Disclaimer: parents of students in my daughter’s pre-K class: Yes, she was the first reported case of head lice. And I’m sorry. I hope she didn’t give it to any of your children. She was not the second reported case of lice. Don’t know who that was and can’t claim it. But the mama of that child is free to give me a call and we can swap war stories over tears and libations. The identity of your child will remain privileged and confidential. 

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