Tuesday, September 1, 2015

HAPPY NEW SCHOOL YEAR GIVEAWAY!

      I always feel like September is the start of the new year because  I've been planning my life around a school calendar for most of my life. January actually feels like mid-year to me so  "HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

     Instead of making New Year's resolutions, I am in the throes of nagging assisting my son with college applications. It is so much more complicated than when I applied for college. I think there might be a lot of blogging material there. Should I start a separate blog? Will that topic bore you? Will this topic age me 20 years by the time we know what the college plan is actually going to be? Please weigh in.

   In the meantime, let's go back to a happier time when Thomas the Tank Engine was the only thing we thought about around here.  My boys were addicted to Thomas Videos (yes, we had VHS back in the old days).  Thomas is good clean fun and the stories really have did have calming effect on my boys. This   was a real game-changer around 5:00 p.m. on weekdays ( "the bewitching hour").

   Lucky you, Universal Studios Home Entertainment is releasing a new Thomas & Friends Blu-ray/DVD on September 8th. It's called “THOMAS & FRIENDS: SODOR'S LEGEND OF THE LOST TREASURE”  and they have asked me to host a giveaway of a copy!

    If you have a little one who would enjoy this Blu-Ray/DVD, just leave a comment below. I am going to do a random drawing from all comments received before midnight E.S.T. on Wednesday September 2nd so comment quickly. I'll announce the winner Thursday morning.


SYNOPSIS:
Shiver me timbers! Surprises await Thomas and his friends as they dig up their most daring adventure yet. Unearthing an old pirate ship, Thomas is on the hunt for Sodor’s lost treasure. When Thomas rocks the boat with some new friends, trouble soon rushes in. Will Thomas track down the treasure in time or will Sailor John set sail with it?  Join Thomas & Friends™ in this explosive movie adventure!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Six things that I was really happy that I packed for my long vacation.

I recently went away on a trip. It was a voyage, not a relaxing vacation.  14 days, three flights, six different hotels.  The itinerary included visiting my kids at sleep away camp in North Carolina, horning in on my husband's business trip in Northern California & Southern Oregon, and vacationing in three other spots 

I needed to pack clothing for the heat wave, for hiking and biking, for the cool San Francisco weather and for looking presentable as the wife of a business executive while meeting tons of his colleagues in a convention-like setting.   How did I pack lightly for such a range of different types of climates and events? I DID NOT.  My suitcase weighed a ton. I have no advice as to how to cut down other than pack lots of black clothing.

However there are six things that I am really glad that I had packed as they really came in handy:


1. A travel hair dryer. I have long hair. Those little dryers that they provide in hotels just don't do it for me. I don't want frizzy hair in vacation photos so I purchased this little baby since my last one died on a cruise ship.  It is tiny but powerful. I got it at Bed Bath and Beyond for $29.99 (less one of those 20% off coupons), so it was a bargain. I was really happy that I had it.
Yes, I wear this silly eyemask, even on airplanes!

2. Earplugs and an eye mask.   Even if you are lucky to be sharing a hotel room with someone who does not snore, hotels can be noisy. Even if you are used to the noise in your own home, the new noises might prevent you from getting some shut eye. I always pack these cute pink earplugs that are made for women with dainty little ear holes like me. At least one part of me is dainty.

3. Lysol Wipes.  I'm not a germaphobe but there is nothing worse than getting sick while away from home. I always carry wipes when I travel. I wipe down the airplane seat, arm rests and tray tables before I settle in. I also wipe down any handle, knob, remote control and telephone in any hotel room before I do anything else.  It can't hurt.

4. A magnifying mirror with suction cups.  If you are of a certain age like me, your eyes are not as great at they were. While some hotels have magnifying mirrors, it is not a universal thing so  I throw a small one in my make up bag so that I don't end up walking around with eyeliner all over my face


5. Chargers, chargers, chargers. Every time we were in the room, my husband and I both needed to charge our phones, tablets and laptops.   I was happy that every device had an individual charger so we could charge everything at once. Remember, even if you are not talking or texting, these days you are probably using your phone as a GPS, Travel guide and camera when you travel. It all just eats those batteries up. 




6. Bonine/Dramamine & a small pharmacy. We were on some very scary mountain roads and a ferry.  I sometimes get motion sickness so popping a Bonine (which does not make me drowsy) was a brilliant idea for everyone, especially the rental car company.  I also traveled with small packets of benadryl, advil, bandaids, etc. My little emergency kit was small but mighty.  It is true that almost every place you go has a store where you can buy anything you might need, but in the middle of the night (or in the middle of a forrest), it was nice to be prepared.

My next post will contain six things that I did not really need during my trip...

Do you have any suggestions to add to my list of things to bring on a long trip?






Thursday, August 20, 2015

Don't say that I did not warn you...

Unless you've been on a media blackout, you've probably heard about the Ashley Madison scandal. Ashley Madison is a disgusting website where married people can find other married people to have affairs with. Ashley Madison promised their millions of customers (yes millions of them!) that this was a private thing. They even charged customers a fee to delete their accounts from their servers forever.  We have now learned that this was not true. Hackers hacked in and released the names, addresses and other very personal information about their past and present customers including what kind of sexual adventures they were looking for. I warned my readers to tell their kids that nothing on the internet is private in March 2014 in my blog.  Everything on here is stored somewhere forever!  Even my silly ranting blog posts. Forever! Here is a repost of my March 2014 blog where I warned you..

A Social Media Cautionary Tale...(originally posted in March 2014)

   Last week I wrote about my decision to keep my blog anonymous. However, just because you're "anonymous" or your settings on your social media sites are "private", does not mean that what you write might not get you in trouble one day.

   Without getting into a legal discussion, please know that whatever you post on the internet can be discovered if you're ever a party to a lawsuit. A judge is very likely to make you produce anything that you have posted to the internet, even if anonymous or "private".  This applies to what your family posts too.

  Recently, 69 year old Patrick Snay learned this the hard way.  Snay was the headmaster of a fancy prep school here in Miami but a few years ago, the school did not renew his contract and he sued for age discrimination. The school settled with him and agreed to pay $10,000 in back wages plus $80,000 for other damages and pay his attorneys fees. It was a win for him. The agreement contained a confidentiality clause prohibiting him from talking about the case.  These clauses are often standard in settlement agreements.

   Snay's daughter Dana was so excited about the results of her father's case, that she could not resist posting this to her 1200 Facebook friends immediately after it was agreed to.

“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver.
Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

Supposedly this is a photo of Ms. Snay (source Yahoo! Shine)


   Besides making her parents so proud with her classy Facebook photo and post, she cost them $80,000. The school's  lawyers found out about the post within four days of the settlement and successfully asked the Court to invalidate the  agreement. The Florida appeals Court ruled that the settlement agreement was violated and that the school did not have to pay  the Principal.( The case can still be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court)

    You've probably seen the news stories about people posting their illegal acts online and it leading to problems for them ( example:  Miami Fraternity was suspended from campus after posting about drug dealing and hazing) and how posting about what you're doing can lead to people robbing you (example: woman's home was robbed after she posted that she was going out to see a concert. The burglars were her Facebook "friends" ) but did you know that it is possible that comments that you make on your blog or others can 
also get you in trouble?


   Courts have found that bloggers may have a free-speech right to write what they want to online but are not protected from being sued for their comments, even if posted anonymously!  If a Court finds that your online comments are defamatory, you could be liable for them. The legal line drawn is between "opinion" and "fact". If you call your ex-boyfriend a "liar or a loser", that is likely to be found to be an opinion and free speech. But if you write something like ,"Dr. Jones is the worst dentist. He overcharges people and performs work that does not really need to be done", it could be found to be defamatory. 

    So tread likely and think before you hit "enter". 


Monday, July 20, 2015

That time I went glamping and stayed in a yurt...

    If you have read any of my other posts, you have probably figured out that I'm not exactly the camping type of person. My idea of "roughing it" is staying at the Hampton Inn, so when my husband told me that during part of our hybrid business trip/vacation I'd be staying in a round tent called a yurt, I was not exactly excited.

    My husband is an executive for an international company and one of their clients is located in Northern California. It is a small resort and cafe called Strawhouse Resorts and it is literally in the middle of nowhere.   We drove up on a highway from the San Francisco area and once we made a turn to the west, we were deep into the mountains on a two lane road, twisting and turning. Good thing I had the smarts to pop an anti-motion sickness pill or it would have gotten very ugly.   We drove and drove (actually it was only about 1.5 hours of mountain driving but I am dramatic at times). We finally pulled up to a riverfront paradise.

     Strawhouse is on the Trinity River in Big Flat California. The population of this town is 35 people, two of whom I now call friends. Their names are Julia and Don and they built and own this lovely little place.  They have an amazing coffee house and restaurant with organic and delicious food. Inside their cafe, they sell wonderful items from local artists. The outside deck of the cafe is alongside the stunning river where eagles fly by and hummingbirds come right up to your nose.  I tried to capture some of the magic by taking photos but they did not do it justice.  It was really one of the most beautiful places, I've ever seen.

The owners Don & Julia (aren't they cute?)
      They have some lovely little cabins that you can stay in but we got lucky enough to stay in the yurt.   It was much larger than I thought it would be. Other than the canvas walls,  it was not like a tent at all. It had wood floors,  the most comfortable bed , a full kitchen, air-conditioning and a gorgeous claw foot bathtub.  It was not "roughing it" at all.  It was fantastic.  

The yurt!!!!
500 count thread sheets is not roughing it, even for me!
      We spent two days without tv, wifi (except inside the cafe) and cell phone coverage.  This was the best business trip ever (no husband blabbing on the cell phone). This also meant that I only stalked checked the sleep away camp website once a day  for proof of life (a/k/a a photo of my youngest child who apparently is intentionally hiding from the camera person, his brother*

     Don and Julia were the warmest, sweetest people that I have ever met and if they had a cell phone tower, I might consider buying the lot next door just to be their neighbors.  If you find yourself in Northern California, you should really stop by this place either for a night or one of their famous wood oven pizzas.   It is well worth the trip.  http://www.strawhouseresorts.com/



*yes, you read that right.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The comfort zone...

Public high schools in Florida have a fine arts credit requirement. When my son was finishing up his freshman year, he was not happy about having to take anything with the word "art" in it.  He begged to take something online so that he could take an extra science class.  Science was what his friends were into. He was so persistent that I actually went into speak to the Principal about allowing him to do this.  Despite that fact that this woman was in charge of 2100 young minds, she really thought about it, looked at his transcript and strongly suggested that he take his fine arts at school and not to take an extra science class. "It will be good for him" and she pretty much took about a huge rubber stamp and marked "Denied" on his request.

   At the time, I did not understand her refusal for more science. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) is being heavily pushed these days. It seems that every boy is rushing towards this type of major in college.  The thought is that STEM is where the jobs are going to be. Even kids who are not "science kids" like mine, were feeling the pressure to head into this direction.

   My son wearily reported for photography the first day of tenth grade.  During the year, he not only learned about the history of photography and studied the masters, he learned about cameras, taking photos and how to develop black and white film in the school's darkroom. Near the end of the year, he decided to take Advanced Placement (AP) Photography during 11th grade. 

   During his junior year ,while taking this college-level photography class, he started running around with his friends on urban photo safaris. They are starting a photography club at their school.  Some of his photos were chosen by his teacher to be shown at art shows around town and entered into contests. 

   In June, as he was heading off to his old summer camp to be a counselor, he asked if he could bring his camera and help the camp photographer out. The camp said to bring it and maybe he could help once in a while during the summer.

  He's been at camp for a little over two weeks and taking photos every day.  Hundreds of his photos have been posted on the camp's website so far. Right now he is a "war" correspondent  (Color War!)  

Color War Breaks out with Plane dropping Team Assignments!



   I guess getting out of one's comfort zone is usually a good thing. This is motivating me to get out of mine but I'm not sure what I'm up for this summer. Any suggestions? I'm thinking about learning about wine or paddle boarding. I'll probably go with the wine.

     Happy Summer!



My boys are teenagers and embarrassed by the mere existence of parents. They HATE when I blog about them but they are gone for the summer and are not supposed to be anywhere near the internet. They will be mad at me when they get back.





Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stuff, Stuff Everywhere….

My sister convinced me to read 

This book is pretty simple and if you have too much stuff in your closets, house or life, I suggest you download or pick up a copy.  The basic premise of the "KONMARI" Method of tidying up is to go through every single piece of "stuff" in your house and only keep what you really love (or need).  

I started with my closet and I have to say, Marie Kondo gave me permission not to feel bad about discarding just about 1/2 of my clothing.  She doesn't tell you to throw or giveaway things that you haven't worn in a year or don't fit. She just says to decide if each thing, whether it be a pair of socks or a super expensive dress, brings you joy. If not, you are free to toss it.   As I was going through each and every single item in my closet, the permission that Kondo gave to let go of things that I was hanging onto because they cost a lot or "in case of" was fantastic. The guilt of my stuff was gone. It was quite liberating.  

If a sweater was itchy, out it went. If a top never looked good on me, out it went. If shoes were designer but hurting my feet, they disappeared too. That outfit that was on sale but was sitting there waiting in case I ever got invited to the Hamptons was also pitched. (If you invite me to your house in the Hamptons, I'll go buy something new!) 

It all felt great.  But what to do with the stuff.  Bags and Bags were donated but some of the stuff was really good. Kondo does not endorse pawning the stuff onto your friends and family unless they really want it

I had three other avenues that I used to make a little bit of dough from the things that were not bringing me happiness.


1. Ebay.  You knew that was coming right????

Here is an example of something that was just clogging up my closet and now is residing in my bank account. Not a big sale at all.  However, it was like found money.




This was a little Burberry Pouch that came with Perfume. It was just sitting there unused with about a million other little toiletry bags. It sold for $34.99!



If you have been holding on to your Crap stuff, you might want to search completed items on Ebay. You might find that some cash might make you happier than a Trapper Keeper Notebook from the 80's
Yes, this authentic, Original Notebook from 8th grade sold for $35 bucks (including free shipping). Sometimes it does pay to be a packrat. Not really.

By the way, with the ebay app for smart phones, you can just take a photo, fill out the form and list away. So much simpler than in the olden days.   Just remember to promptly ship out once your stuff sells!

2. Like Twice  If you're too busy to Ebay your clothes and handbags, you might want to check them out.  They only buy certain brands but they either send you a bag to fill up or you print out a label and just ship out to them. They will either buy your items outright or give you a Target Gift Card or a store credit for everything that they want.   You probably won't make as much as you do on ebay but it is way easier.  I am about to ship them a box of designer jeans that certainly are not bringing me joy sitting in my closet mocking me because they don't fit or look good.  I expect to take in about $10 per pair.  Certainly not anything close to what they cost new but still easy money and better than nothing!

3. After I moved out of the closet, I started in on my china cabinet and I found this company…
 Replacements.com  This company will buy certain pieces of china and crystal.   They don't buy everything but I had a partial set of China that was not "bringing me joy" and I sent them a few photos and they shot me back a quote that was quite nice and did bring me joy.  Now I'm bubble wrapping and packing it up.  This site also sells replacement pieces so if there is a set of dishes or glasses that you love but have lost or broken along they way, they will help you make a full set! 
Here is the china I am shipping to them. 




I'm still Konmari-ing. It make take quite a long time to get rid of everything in my house that is not bringing me joy.  The next stop is the kid's room  That should be lots of fun.  During last summer's annual "clean up their room while they are away" festival  uncovered an uneaten sandwich in a backpack . Seriously. 

If you've tried Konmari, I'd love to hear about it!





Monday, June 1, 2015

I'm famous...

As many of my readers know, I am, among other things, an eBay seller.  I was chosen by eBay to take part in a branding experiment.  They teamed me up with Vistaprint (a longtime favorite of mine) and helped me makeover my eBay "store".  

The gave me a new logo and banner and gave me new business cards and postcards to include with my packages. They gave me suggestions how to freshen up my online store.  Click Here for the story about the results which is featured on ebay.com!




Super exciting. Maybe they can makeover the blog next!!!!