Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Live Like a Local / VRBO


Last year, right around this time, we were solidifying our plans to stay in New York City for the summer.  Our motto for the summer was, "Live like locals." When we travel, we like to try to experience a destination from a local point of view.  There is nothing quite like exploring the real life essence of a booming city,  balmy beach town, or quaint country village. Touristy stuff is often overpriced and overrated.

In order to achieve our goal, we decided to give Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) a try.  We knew that we needed to find a place to rent for at least a month. It had to sleep 6 people, be kid friendly, and have amenities such as a kitchen and laundry facility. We found VRBO to be a very user friendly website chalk full of great pictures and reviews of vacation rentals.  From sprawling ranches to urban flats, VRBO offers much to the shelter seeking traveler.

We were surprised at the ease in which we were able to identify a property of interest, contact the owner, and secure a rental agreement.  The whole process was seamless and we found a gem of a place to "live" for the summer!  I recently was asked by the owners of the property to write a review of our experience.

In July of 2013, our family of 6 stayed in Manhattan. We wanted to live like locals and desired to stay in a residence rather than a hotel. We found a gem of a brownstone in Central Harlem to rent! Located in the Upper West side a few short blocks from Central Park and Morningside Park we were steps from gardens, lagoons, hiking and playgrounds galore. The city beckoned us to explore her offerings daily with the subway just a two minute stroll from the house. We were fortunate to be a few short stops away from museums, shopping, Broadway, all things tourist :-). We often preferred to stay in the neighborhood enjoying the local wares. With Bier International an urban beer garden, Harlem Shambles the local butcher shop, and a gourmet grocery store just around the corner we felt right at home. Speaking of home, the brownstone is a true work of art, yet so comfortable and homey. The owners were a delight to work with. It was evident that they love their home and their city. Our kids (ages 4-15) loved the spaciousness of the home. With a fort in the backyard (yes, a backyard!), the home theatre complete with projector, and a late night cookie delivery service our kids were smitten. The balcony herb garden and friendly neighbors made the stay extra special. Who wouldn't love watching fire flies dance in the air while eating tacos with freshly picked cilantro and chatting with NYC locals? I highly recommend this amazing home for anyone who wants to visit the Big Apple and live like local.
Recommended for: Romantic getaway, adventure seekers, tourists without a car, families with young children, sightseeing, girls' getaway.
The brownstone we rented was featured in the New York Times and you can read more about it and catch some super photos of it by clicking here
Oh, and the good news is that you can rent this gorgeous home this summer if you want to "live like a local" in NYC. 
Hugs, 
Melissa

Friday, April 11, 2014

Places to Pee



When we were in New York last summer, one thing that really was not fun was when one of our little monkeys had to use the bathroom and it was always like a total emergency, "I have to go right now!" situation.  We found ourselves scrambling to find bathrooms on several occasions.  More than once, we had to inconvenience an-oh-so-friendly store clerk and use a gross toilet in the back of some random CVS.  My favorite was the grocery store in Brooklyn where the customer service gal handed me a HUGE key ring with a single key attached. I guess they had lost the key one time too many. She meant business when she looked straight at me, gave me that key, and told me to return it when we were finished. All the while, her right eye twitched.

What I would have given for this app that just launched recently! AIRPNP is a clever and useful app that will be sure to save some butts (pun intended) all over the world. Take a look at some of the fancy loos out there just awaiting your arrival. You can click on the pictures to enlarge and read all the details about each bathroom for hire.

In Union Square New York City, you can pet an adorable pooch before and after you "freshen up".


And who wouldn't want to relieve themselves in this Brooklyn mansion? 



This one is my favorite so far! In Europe, you just have to wade on into the sea and let it fly. Oh my!  That has got to be some nasty water.  



There a hundreds of bathrooms for rent or free world wide.  You can download the app, peruse the map, and find that perfect spot to do your business. So, what are your thoughts on these rental pottys?  Would you rent one?  Would you rent yours out?

Hugs,

Melissa





Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Life is Like a Picnic Basket

See that picnic basket? I've had it since I was 16. It's an antique :-) My parents gave it to me for Christmas along with a cedar hope chest full of household items. Sounds like a freaky gift to give a 16 year old kid, right? Don't be fooled though, because I asked for that hope chest and its contents. When my other friends were asking for high-top Nikes and Guess jeans, I was asking for crystal goblets and dish towels. 

I've always been a planner. I've always wanted to know "what's next?". I've always wanted to be prepared, ready for the future (and any picnics on the horizon :-) ). Oh! I was so excited to get that hope chest. So looking forward to the future at the tender age of 16. Totally oblivious to the fact that we can plan all we want for the future, but the unexpected will happen. As John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you are making plans." So true!

I look at pictures of our Little Monkey and his sweet sister on their recent picnic and  they make me smile. I want so desperately to plan out their futures, to shield them from any bad apples that might be lurking in life's picnic basket. I know now from experience that life does not work that way. Try as we might to plan for our children's futures, each day will come with its challenges and triumphs. 

I just want them to know that we are always here to cut the crusts off those PB&Js if life gets too overwhelming. 

Hugs,

Melissa

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cabin Fever Anyone?



If you are anywhere north of the swamp that I live in, you have probably started experiencing, Cabin Fever.  Maybe you have been shut inside one day too many, and you are one cup of cocoa short of going cuckoo. The symptoms of Cabin Fever are even more intense if you have children who are also cooped up indoors.  How do you know if you have Cabin Fever?  Here is a list of potential symptoms:


You may have Cabin Fever if: 

 Your patience is growing thin.  You find yourself telling the microwave to hurry up or rushing the dryer to finish. Before long,  you are walking around the house and scolding other inanimate objects. 

 You are feeling increasingly claustrophobic and you suddenly want to start a home improvement project which involves demolishing walls in your home. Your husband comes home and finds you with a sledge hammer and makeshift blueprints of your new “sun room”. 

 You are dreaming of mowing the lawn, pulling the weeds, picking up trash on the side of the highway with the local prisoners, and other mundane outside chores. 

 When someone asks your dog if he wants to “go outside” you suddenly get really excited, bark, and spin around in circles. 

 You have developed a irrational fear of winter clothes.  Your snow boots make you feel anxious, your scarves make you sweat, and your coat makes you want to cry like a baby. 

So, if you have one or more of the above symptoms, know that you are not alone. Millions of other folks are suffering from Cabin Fever right along with you. Except for us lucky ducks here in Florida.  Please don’t hate us right now.  In a few short months we will be enduring 100 plus degree heat, humidity, and your bad driving.  Oops!  Did I just say that?  But really, hang it there.  And as a very famous mouse down here says, “See you real soon!”

Hugs, 


Melissa

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Makeover Magic

Ever since I was in college, I have dreamt of having a makeover. I just really wanted someone to sit down with me and explain how to apply makeup properly, advise me on colors that work with my skin tone, and do something stylish with my massive amount of hair. Seriously, most days my hair demands its own zip code.

On a recent trip to LA, I was able to have that makeover and it was a total treat! Let's just call it a Christmas, Mother's 
Day, Birthday present rolled into one. 

Before I actually met with Hope Zarro of HopeZarroBeauty.com, we spoke on the phone about what I was hoping to achieve during our upcoming session. I told her that I wanted to learn hair and makeup techniques that I could use everyday. I wanted to know what her "go to" products were. She asked me to do a little homework and find some pictures of makeup and hairstyles that caught my eye. So I went straight into research mode and headed over to Pinterest. 

I had been growing my hair out for over a year, so I definitely wanted to keep the length. Also, my hair has gone from super straight to wildly wavy over the past five years. Can everybody say, "Hormones?!". So, I searched for medium length hair with some waviness. 

Here is what I sent to Hope:


Do you recognize this gal? She played Jessie's wife on Full House. 

I also saved these pictures:



The cut, color and very natural makeup were just what I had in mind.

When I arrived at Scissors Salon in Santa Monica, I was excited and ready to learn. Santa Monica was such a beautiful seaside town and the salon was a little retro gem. Hope was warm and welcoming, very professional yet wonderfully personable. Her credentials are pristine! She trained at Julliard, did hair and makeup on Broadway, and has worked in the movie, televsion industry for many years. She is the real deal! 

We started with my hair. Hope did not need to do much with my cut (thanks to the awesome Julie who cuts my hair here in Orlando). She just tapered the sides a bit and took a little weight off. Then, she added in some highlights and lowlights to zest things up a bit.


As she styled my hair, Hope explained how the correct blow drying brush is key. She showed me how to properly use the brush and dryer to get a super smooth, tamed mane. 


Next, we moved on to makeup. I was so surprised to find that some of Hope's favorite products are also budget friendly!


These two tubes of makeup magic have revolutionized my makeup routine!

Hope explained that the biggest mistake that most ladies make is hiding their skin with too much foundation. It is important to let the natural you shine through. Less is more. 

As she worked, Hope would give me the makeup brushes and coach me on how to apply each item. She advised me to avoid a lot of pink tones since the undertone of my skin is pink. She used a warm bronze color to frame my face (contour) and Makeup Forever's HD Powder to highlight. Hope wrote down every product that she used and gave me this handy, dandy diagram to take home. 


Oh, and she also bought me a frozen custard :-) 

I had a wonderful makeover! Hope is a true artist. She is so knowledgeable and she taught me a ton of valuable information that I utilize everyday when I get ready. She even sent me some lip and eye pencils as a gift :-)! Thank you, Hope!

Here is Hope's handiwork:

Before and After

If you live in LA or will be visiting, I highly recommend Hope Zarro for all your hair and makeup needs. 

You can visit Hope's website at: http://hopezarrobeauty.com

Or her Instagram at: HopeZarroBeauty

Or book an appointment at:


Hugs,

Melissa

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Like a Scene from a Recurring Bad Dream...

Have you ever had a dream? Well, of course we all have dreams. What I meant to say is, have you ever had a recurring dream? Maybe a slightly weird or even downright disturbing dream? I have.

I have this dream where I am happily going about my daily routine when suddenly I have to go to the bathroom really, really bad. I look around and much to my dismay the only bathroom that I can find is a room with not just one toilet, but a room full of toilets. There are no partitions or any kind of privacy at all. Oh, and each toilet,except for one, is occupied. And I'm all like, "There is no way in heck I'm going to go to the bathroom with all these people in here!" Right about this point, I usually wake up realizing that in real life I have to go to bathroom really, really bad. It's a very disconcerting process. So Freudian!

Imagine my horror when this week I saw this picture... 

aaaand this...


What the crap! Pun intended.

You guys, these are real bathrooms at the Sochi Olympics! Truly, the stuff my nightmares are made out of! 

Did the Russian government think that perhaps communal bathrooms would inspire a special camaraderie among the athletes? You know, "The team that pees together skis together?" or some such nonsense.

Anyway, to make matters worse, I just read this morning that one of the bobsledders had to bust his way out of a bathroom that he was stuck in! Whaaaaat?!?


I guess he had enough of the whole communal bathroom thing after all! 

Hugs,

Melissa

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bulletproof?



It was 2002, Pete and I were in the thick of loving on our children, working, and life in general. We were apart a lot. Like a lot, a lot. My days were full with loving, teaching, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, consoling, playing, cleaning some more, and transporting four children all under the age of 10. Pete's days were full of consulting with a high profile musician and providing for our family. Pressure, pressure and more pressure. Then to add to the "adventure" the musician went on tour and Pete found himself traveling a ton. We were in the thick of separation overdrive.  Somewhere along the way my mind and eyes started to wander...

There has never, ever been a doubt in my heart that Pete is the love of my life. Never. But something rather disconcerting happened that balmy Spring of 2002.  I learned a lot of valuable information about myself that Spring. It all began poolside. Our middle monkeys were taking infant water survival lessons. You know, the kind where the instructor teaches your child how to flip onto their back in the water to avoid drowning while you sit in the side of the pool alternating between wanting to go all  "water ninja" on the instructor and being forever grateful to them and wanting to adopt them into your family for their contribution to your child's survival? Yep, those classes.

The instructor was gifted. He had a gentleness with our babies that assured me that they were safe and secure in his hands. His pool side manner with parents was reassuring and inclusive. We developed a repoire. The monkeys admired him and so did I. As the weeks went on, I looked forward to the lessons more and more. I enjoyed our chats there on the side of the pool as the kids splashed and played safely. 

My first clue that something was amiss, was when Pete came to a lesson about 4 weeks into the course. The monkeys did so well, the instructor filled Pete in on all their progress, we all chatted for a bit, and then on the way home Pete looked at me and said, "He is a really nice, good looking guy and I think you like him." I suddenly felt a twinge of guilt as I agreed with him. Then, this alarm went off in my head and I realized that I had been thinking about that instructor a lot, I mean a lot, a lot. I looked back on our interactions and thankfully they were appropriate.  He had no idea that I was enjoying our pool side chats a little too much, but I did and Pete was aware too.  



So, I learned something about myself that Spring.  Looking back on my life I saw a pattern.  I am wired to need a lot of quality time with those that I love.  I mean a lot, a lot.  Quality time is my number one love language.  When life gets out of control busy and there is no time to connect or communicate that love language is hard to "hear".  And what I learned is that I need to be careful not to "listen" for it in other places.  

Pete and I are both aware that our marriage is a sacred relationship and that there is no one here on this earth that either of us would rather be with.  We are also aware that marriage takes a lot of work.  I mean a lot, a lot.  We have some safeguards in place to protect our marriage.  One of them is that we always, always tell each other if we are struggling emotionally.  We communicate our fears, our hopes, our dreams and our frustrations. We make sure that we do not spend time alone with a member of the opposite sex.  This may sound old fashioned, but I know what I know about myself.  We both are very open to sharing our social media communications with each other.  Texts, FaceBook messages, emails, etc. .  Some may think that this is prying or a demonstration of a lack of trust, but we think that it is transparency.  Transparency equals trust.  

Pete and I are not naive enough to think that our marriage is invincible.  We take our vows seriously and have committed to fight hard to keep our relationship healthy, vibrant and exclusive.  We are working everyday to build a bulletproof marriage.  It takes prayer, time, sacrifice, perseverance, and commitment.   Some days are better than others, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

How about you my friends?  What are you doing to bulletproof your special relationships?  Let's encourage each other to fight the good fight.  Our relationships are worth it. 

Hugs, 

Melissa