Inspirational People....(and a giveaway)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sorry that I've been MIA from the blog but all in good around Japolinaville. I'm out of hibernation to tell you about a great TV series and a contest!!!!

BORN THIS WAY chronicles the lives of a group of young adults born with Down syndrome as they pursue their passions while defying society's expectations. The series also follows their parents who share their own journey of joy, sacrifice, and unconditional love. BORN THIS WAY premieres Season 2 next Tuesday, July 26 on A&E Network. I love the show and can't wait to watch the new season. Click here for a sneak peak

A&E has given me a $25 Target Gift card to giveaway. Just nominate an inspirational person in a comment below and the most inspiring person will get the gift card mailed to him. Easy Peasy. Just post before July 25th at midnight E.S.T. I will post on the 26th, the name of the winner.

The most recent person to inspire me is Jen Bricker. If you've never heard of her, google her. She was born in Romania with no legs and when her birth parents saw her, they abandoned her. An American family, Gerald and Sharon Bricker, adopted Jennifer and raised her in a small town in Illinois. Gerald and Sharon did not allow Jen to learn the word can't. When she wanted to become a gymnast, they said "Go for it" and she became a tumbling champ. She was obsessed with the Olympic gymnast,Dominique Moceanu and it turns out that Moceanu was her biological sister. Crazy story. Regardless, the fact that Jen never lets her lack of legs stops her really is a message that many of us need to pay attention to. If she can become a gymnast with no legs, most of us have no excuses.

Inspire me with someone who inspires you. Don't forget, giveaway ends on July 25th! Tell your friends. A $25 gift card to Target is a great prize. Thanks A & E

My day at a Japanese Spring Fair (in South Florida!)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

South Florida is not exactly at hotbed of Japanese culture except for at one spot, the Morikami Museum and Gardens in Palm Beach County. The museum is located on the land where, in 1904, a Japanese American organized a group of pioneering Japanese farmers and lead them to Boca Raton where they formed a farming colony they named Yamato, an ancient name for Japan. It was not a success and the farmers eventually went back to Japan. In 1977, a museum and gardens were opened in the same spot to celebrate Japanese culture.  It is a unique treasure for the area and if you are ever down here, you should absolutely check it out. 

This weekend, we headed to the Hatsume Fair at the Morikami. Hatsume is a once-a-year weekend festival celebrating spring. The $15 festival ticket not only granted access to the gardens but also a Japanese food street fair, art and merchandise booths and demonstrations of dancing, martial arts,and taiko drumming. 

An added bonus to the festivities was that there was a cosplay contest and I'd say about half of the people that I saw during the day there were dressed up in costumes featuring their favorite Japanese anime characters, not one of whom I recognized. (I don't know the first thing about anime). Regardless it was sort of surreal walking about the magnificent gardens following people with blue hair and horns. No, old Japolina did not dress up but I made lots of new friends who did...
These were some new friends we came across at Hatsume!

The festival was quite interesting and a great way to spend an afternoon. If you go today (or next year) here are my tips:

1. Go early, like when it opens early. We got there at 11:45 (it opened at 11) and it was very already crowded. By the time we left, the lines to get in were really, really long.

2. Take the kids. It really did not feel that we were in Florida 

3. If you are into wearing a costume, go for it

4. Bring cash. The food was expensive but trying mochi ice cream was worth it! 

5. Bring sunscreen. This is sort of a given for any SoFla adventure, however it was quite hot. Summer is here!

6. Bring a good camera. The photos on the blog today are courtesy of my son. He got some great shots and was glad that he schlepped along the good camera, rather than the usual cell phone one!

Midnight Special (the movie) Giveaway....

Monday, March 14, 2016

A cool new movie is coming out and Grace Hill media has generously offered to give one of my readers "movie money" to go see it!   The movie is called Midnight Special and no, it is not about gun violence.  (Thank goodness!)

Midnight Special is about the power of a parent’s love – How far a mother and father would go to protect their child. This movie will encourage us to reflect on the importance of family and the responsibility parents have to encourage and shield their children from society’s wrongful perception of what “normal” should look like.  Sounds amazing! As an added bonus,  Adam Driver, Hannah's ex-boyfiend on Girls is in it!

The film written and directed by Jeff Nichols stars Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Sam Shepard, and Jaeden Lieberher. 

If you want to win movie money, leave a comment below about anything you want. Contest ends March 17th at noon and a winner will be picked by random drawing. Check back on the 18th to see if you won!

I may become a shut in...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

    First of all, let me just disclose that this is free advertising for Amazon. They really should hire me to do PR for them because I just love them more and more as time goes on.  I've been a fan since their inception and unlike my love affair gone sour with Target and many other businesses, my love for Amazon just keeps growing and growing. If you're reading this Amazon, I'm available for hire!

   I've been paying for Amazon Prime for years. The free two day shipping was a lifesaver for me. I live in a part of the big city of Miami but the closet real book store is about 45 minutes away which is absurd.  Luckily, right about when Barnes and Noble moved out of my hood, Amazon Prime came along. My kids were always needing books for school and it really became a life saver for me.

    I order tons of stuff on Amazon now. Shoes, socks, printer ink, vitamins and shampoo are just a few of my most recent orders. It is so much easier than running around town trying to find exactly what I need and is usually less expensive than my local stores which is just crazy.

   My love for amazon became greater last year when Amazon "Prime Now" became available in my area.  This means that many items can be delivered to my house within two hours. For free. Yes, you heard that right.  Cases of bottled water, flu supplies, 25 pounds of kitty litter and a king sized duvet are just a few of the things that have shown up at my door within two hours lately.

    Today my apple mouse started to act wonky. I was in the middle of a lawyer project and the thought of heading to most germ-filled place on earth (The Apple Store in my mall) was too much for me to handle. As I rattled through closets looking for a back up, I decided to check Prime now.  They delivered a brand new Magic Mouse 2 within two hours for $3.00 less than it would have at the mall. Now that is great service.


In other news, I'm writing in Limberbutt McCubbins on my ballot on Tuesday. I think old Limberbutt is cuter than anyone else running.

Why aren't your eBay items selling???

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

    I belong to some Facebook groups of fellow Ebay sellers.   One of the things that never fails to show up on my wall is a post with someone lamenting that they have not had a sale in days.   It is very discouraging, especially for new sellers. 

     After almost 16 years of selling on the site,  I don't claim to have all of the answers but here are my top six tips for sellers who seem to be in a slump.

1.  List something every day. Do not "re-list". You can "sell similar" or sell a completely new item but list at least something every day. When you list as "sell Similar" or start a new listing, supposedly it shows up higher in the searches.  I try to list at least five new  listings or "sell similar item"  every day and it is rare that a day goes by without at least one sale. The only time that I "re-list" an item is when there are 2 or more watchers on it.  

Caution, make sure to delete the unsold listing after you "sell similar". Ebay hates when sellers have duplicate listings of the same item and I have heard stories of suspensions from the site because of this even when it is done in error.

2. The shorter the term of the listing, the better. Some seasoned sellers disagree with this. They like the "LIFI" method ("list it and forget it"). They go with "Good 'til canceled listings/GTC". Not me. I find that the more often your listing is "fresh", the more you sell. This is because some buyers filter their searches by "newly listed" or "ending soonest" choices. If your item is listed for 5 days it will show up near the top of both of those choices. If it is listed for 30 days or GTC, it will show up near the top much less. Furthermore, some potential buyers have "saved searches" and get emails when something that matches their search is listed. They don't get emails when something is re-listed unless they were "watching" that item

3. If an item has been sitting around your ebay "store" for a while, take a look at the listing.  Perhaps there are errors or a better way for you to describe it.

4. Play around with keywords. Sometimes all it takes is a change in the title of your listing. Take out the color and put in an adjective or vice versa. 

5. Look a similar solds. This is a given whenever you are selling anything but sometime overlooked. Make sure that your price is not out of line. See what other sellers did in their successful listing. As long as you do not steal another sellers photos or word-for-word description, you are free to copy away! 

6. Change the price.  Macy's and other department stores do it all of the time. Sometimes I raise it and add best offer. Sometimes I run a quick "sale" in my store. Sometimes I drop the price of an item by a nominal amount. This often seems to shake up the site a little bit and adds sales when there is a slump going on. 

Here's an example...this sweet thing was sitting in my Ebay store for months. I added best offer and it sold within two days. The buyer just left feedback that she received it and loved it! 

If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them below in the comments! Also, I plan on blogging more about Ebay so if there is any topic that you'd like me cover, let me know.

Seven Things that I wish I would have known before my son started applying to college….

Thursday, January 28, 2016

If you know a mom whose first born is a senior in high school, be especially nice to her right now. Besides the emotional roller coaster that she is going through thinking about the joy and sorrow of her first baby leaving the nest shortly, she (and the baby bird) are likely going through the hell of the college admissions process …

Here are seven things that I have learned so far that I wish I would have known before my son started applying to college.

 1. It is way more complicated than when we applied to college

I’m pretty sure that, in the Fall of 1984, when I applied to the two universities that I wanted to go to, the only parental involvement was writing two small checks for the application fees and actually getting those applications in the mail. These days every college has different application requirements and you literally need to make an excel chart to keep track of who wants what.  

Some schools accept the common application, some do not. Some colleges require essays, teacher recommendations, portfolios and interviews while others just want a transcript and copies of your SAT/ACT scores.   Some schools even want you to self-report your grades on a crazy form that seems like an admission test in itself. 

Lesson Learned:   Don't wait until the last minute. Start getting your ducks in a row during the end of the junior year. Trust me, this will make the fall of the senior year, a tiny bit less insane.

2. “College”  gives you a whole new area to nag/fight about with your child and husband

Depending on your kid and your spouse, the level of nagging and fighting about where to apply to, actually getting the essays and applications completed and where to eventually attend, this time may be the start of World War III in your home. For me, I felt like I was going to a whole new level of threatening and nagging from the second my son arrived home from his summer adventures until the last application was put to bed. 

  Luckily, we all seem to be on the same page about where he wants to go right now, but that can change at any moment. Many of my mom friends are clashing right with people who live in their houses about the college decisions. Teens don’t usually listen to parents about mundane things like what to wear so don’t expect for them to understand that the surfing program at the University of Hawaii is not quite as practical or affordable as studying computer science at Michigan State. 

Lesson Learned: Sit down with your spouse and child and have a serious pow-wow about viable choices for schools and be clear about finances, etc from the get-go. It would be disaster to have to explain to your child that he can't go to a school after he is admitted because you don't feel that it is a good choice for him. 

3. Go on college tours   

I made two huge mistakes last year and you can learn from me. First, we did not tour every place that my son was planning on applying. We figured that we would tour some of our choices after he was admitted.  In hindsight, this was not smart. We toured the first school that accepted him weeks after his acceptance and he was less than enthused. He pretty much stated that he would attend there only if he did not get in anywhere else.  Besides that being a horrible way to go into what should be the best time of his life, applying there just seems like a big waste of time and money to me now.

The second mistake was touring one of the schools on a weekend. In fact we toured at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning. The campus was lovely but looked like an abandoned office park. We got no read on the “mojo” of the school.  We toured other colleges during times when classes were in session and we were able to see what a typical day was like on campus. Just watching the students change classes or walking through the quad and seeing all the tables set up for various clubs and events really gave our son a taste of what campus life is like.

Lesson Learned: You don’t want any college that accepts your child to be a consolation prize. Every college that your child applies to should be a true possible match. 

4. There is no such thing as a sure thing/safety school

College admissions might be the most illogical thing you’ve yet to encounter as a parent, and you dealt with toddlers.   All around America, story after story are passed around at PTA meetings about students that clearly met the qualifications but did not get into their top choices.  I know some pretty amazing young adults that had perfect grades and scores yet did not get into places where they met the criteria. Things besides the resume are taken into account by admissions officers , many which are beyond your control and may never be known. 

However, there are also plenty of stories where kids got into their “reach” schools but not others that seemed more like a sure thing.   Because things are so competitive, many kids apply to 10 schools, some of my friends' kids applied to 20! Colleges love this, but for applicants, it means that the admission rates are lower than they should be. Even schools that used to be sort of easy to get into now have admissions rates lower than 50% . 

Lesson Learned: There is no such thing as a sure thing for most kids so the worst thing that you can do is let your child get focused in on one school alone. Make sure that she keeps her options open.  

5. It’s expensive, and I’m not just talking about tuition

Before you start cutting those $60,000 tuition checks, the 11th and 12th grade years will give you little hints of things to come.  Barely anyone takes the SAT or ACT just once so start adding up those test fees (around $50 a pop). SAT tutoring courses cost around $600-800 and a good private SAT tutor can run up to $100 or more per hour.  Private college counselors around here run in the $3500-6000 range and applying to colleges themselves run any where from $25 to $90 per application so times multiply that five or ten times.  Add in travel costs for visits to tour colleges and it makes those years where you complained about the cost of karate or ballet lessons seem utterly ridiculous.  

Oh yes, you should also place non-refundable housing deposits at any school that your child was accepted to as soon as you can because you want to make sure your child does not get stuck in the crappy dorm should he end up there. I guess it is like when you were pregnant and you could not sleep and it was supposed to prepare you for not sleeping once the baby came. Here you are getting used to spending all of your money on college! 

Lesson Learned: You might want to put off that big home improvement project, plastic surgery or fabulous vacation for a few years.

 6. Those competitive moms are in full crazy mode

Remember those moms in your mommy & me class who loved to brag about their three year old’s ability to play piano or read at a fifth grade level. They are back in full force during this time period and should be avoided at all costs.  They will lie to your face and claim that their child is handling all of the college application stuff on their own and stare at you blankly if you complain about having to nag your child to complete his college essays.  They will spew out a list of the top ten colleges in the country and explain that their child is certain to have a hard time choosing which one to actually attend because they are all courting their genius.

They will also look at your with distain because your child is considering a solid state school.   My non-scientific research has shown that the less intelligent the mother, the snobbier she is about where her child should go to college. Instead of figuring out what is the best match for her child not only academically but also socially, geographically and economically, she is just walking around with the US News and World Report list as her bible.

Lesson Learned:   Just avoid or ignore those crazies until you run into them at freshman orientation at that solid state school. 

7.  Rejection

Don’t be surprised if you instantly and vehemently detest any college that rejects or defers not only your child, but any our your friends’ kids.  I think that many universities are just plain stupid for not accepting some amazing children and young adults that I know.  You may find yourself saying things to your friends that you said to them 25 years ago at the dining room table at the sorority house like “it’s their loss” or “they don’t deserve such a great girl”. This time you’re not speaking about some dumb fraternity boy but about Stanford.

Lesson Learned: It's their loss. They don't deserve such a great girl (or boy)!  

Top Tips for Cruising with kids...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

        I'm a mini-expert on many things. Cruising (on cruise ships) is one of them.  Living here in SoFla means that jumping on a cruise ship is super easy (no flying and great Florida resident discounts). While not exactly as romantic as an episode of "The Love Boat", cruising with kids can make for an amazing family vacation.

 I have some tips for planning a great cruise for the whole crew…

1. Research, Research, Research: All cruise ships and cruise lines are not the same.  Some lines, ships and itineraries are more kid friendly than others. A ship headed from Florida for a week in the Caribbean this summer will be likely filled with kids and teens. One headed on a transatlantic voyage in September, not so much.   Royal Caribbean, Disney, Carnival and NCL all have great activities and programs for the kids. Just be sure to really check out what you are booking before you plunk down your credit card. Most of the larger and newer ships have amazing things like ice skating, water slides, surfing machines, etc to keep even the crankiest teenager happy but some of the smaller ships in the fleets of the same cruise lines do not.

The newest Royal Caribbean Ship coming out "Quantum of the Seas" will offer bumper cars as an activity!

2. Don't just trust a travel agent, ask a friend or a "Boardie": My best friend got off of a voyage on a Disney ship and described it as being trapped inside a floating Chuck E. Cheese's for 7 days and 7 nights. This was really good advice as she is my best friend and I'm certain I would feel the same way.  If none of your friends are good sources, go search the forums/message boards on Those people know more than any travel agent. They are normal people obsessed with cruises and can answer any questions from general ones such as "What ships offer babysitting? " to "Does the Carnival Breeze have chocolate milk available in the main dining room during lunch?" (I'm  not kidding, these people know EVERYTHING). There are message boards dedicated to each cruise line and special interest cruises like "family travel")

3.  Sometimes getting two cabins or even a suite may be less expensive than squeezing everyone into one cabin: Cruise ship cabins are generally small. Like really small. My family of four squeezed into one cabin for a weeklong cruise when my kids were little. It was super fun but very tight.   Unlike hotels who let you shove everyone into a room for one price, cruise ships charge by the person so it may be the same or a little more expensive to getting adjoining cabins or even a suite.  If your kids are teens, you may be able to book yourself a nice balcony cabin and shove the kids across the hall in a cheaper inside cabin.
Haven Family Suites on some NCL ships have two bedroom and two bathrooms!

4. Don't assume that your kids will go to the kids "camp" on board: One of my sons loved going to the onboard camp when he was younger. In fact, he pretty much ditched us every night at dinner so that he could attend the fun night activities. My other one took one look at the amazing kids facilities and decided that he'd rather hang with the grown ups. This was fine with us but you might want to just keep in mind that not every kid wants the organized activities

Kids Camp Room on Carnival Cruise Lines

5. Check out the Kids camp rules before booking: Ships separate their "campers" into age groups and I've been told that they are sticklers for not allowing kids to cross over into other groups so that they can hang with siblings or friends. This means that if your kid and his cousin are a year apart, they may not be able to go to "camp" together. There are also rules at how old or young kids have to be to attend organized activities without a parent.  It would be a great idea to know what to expect way before you board

6. Consider the "more the merrier " rule: The last time that we cruised with friends, they brought their Au Pair with them to keep an eye on their three year old. It was probably the best $500 that they ever spent. They were able to hang with their older kids while still having great family time with the little one. You may also want to barter with grandmas, aunts, nieces etc.  Invite them to sail along with you if they agree to babysit a little bit.  I've also found that traveling with friends means that my kids are more entertained and I get more "Japolina Time" to relax .  Furthermore, once you book, your teens may just find out through social media that their friends are booked on the same trip! On one of our recent cruises, there were five other kids (from three different families) that my kids knew. We barely saw our kids all week which might have been a good thing.

7. Spring for travel insurance: Your health insurance may not cover you onboard or in foreign countries. You can buy a policy for a few bucks that not only allows you to cancel your cruise if someone in your immediate family gets sick before you go but also if someone gets sick while onboard. Cruise ships have medical clinics onboard but they can't handle everything so if you have to get (g-d forbid) airlifted off, you will want to be covered.  On one of my cruises, my friend's daughter broke her leg while ice-skating on the first day at sea. My friend did not purchase travel insurance and was in for lots of money to the cruise ship medical center for the x-rays, cast & treatment. It made a bad situation worse.  You can purchase insurance through your cruise line. I always buy it through as it is much cheaper. By the way, the cruise line could not have been nicer to my friend and her daughter for the rest of the trip. 

8. Pack like you're going to a five star hotel on the moon: What I mean is that if you forget something, you may either have to go without it or pay through the nose for it.   Unlike traveling on land, there is no Target or Walmart at sea. If someone forgets their flip flops or sunglasses , you will be paying five start hotel gift store prices to buy them onboard.  Make a good list and be sure to pack an emergency/first aid kit with thermometer, baby tylenol, etc. Hopefully you won't have to use it but if you do, you'll be happy that you have it.

9. Decide ahead of time whether you are going to let your kids wander without you: During those tween years, I usually let my kids traverse a ship without me but had either walkie talkies or post it notes. I made sure that everyone had a working, waterproof watch and had to let me know where they were going and what time they were going to be back. Walkie talkies don't always work onboard so we had post-it notes. They had to put a post-it note on the mirror in the room which said what time they left and where they were headed. If they wanted to go somewhere else, they had to come back and change the note.  It worked great for me.

10. Have a set of rules written before you go: Besides my post-it note rules, when I cruised with tweens and teens, I had a written set of rules that were handed out to everyone before we set sail. No, I'm not a neurotic drill sergeant and I never hand out lists of anything on land but I saw this on the internet and thought it was a great idea. Rules included "no going into anyone else's cabin, no going into any crew area, no sitting on railings, etc" 

Did I forget anything? What are your top tips for cruising with kids? 
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