Prep Tips for International Travel

Travel Tips Hanging Sign Agency Advice Helpful InformationThere are few things you can do to enhance your perspective and appreciation for life more than traveling.  Along with the fun and adventure that comes with traveling there are a lot of unknowns that can make taking the leap to international travel a bit overwhelming.  These risks seem exponentially more frightful when you consider traveling as a family, as kids have their own set of variables that makes traveling seem like a no go.  The good news is there are some things that can increase the likelihood of making the first part of your trip easy sailing.

Choose your seats wisely: Eight plus hours in a condensed space is one of the things that nightmares are made of.  The plane offers limited places to go, limited options to move around, and limited choices in deciding who surrounds you.  You can be a bit proactive, however in choosing your seats.  Even in economy some seats are just meant to be more comfortable than others.  Check out seats at the front of a section for special accommodations such as baby bassinets or extra leg room.  These features are offered to you without upgrading services but usually require early purchase to lock and secure.  By taking a look at the seat map you can set your strategy for what features work best for you.  Don’t let fate choose for you and end up with a seat that gives you the short end of the stick.

Fill in the blanks: Even the best planned trip has some gaps that are unavoidable. Maybe it is your connection time between flights or the time between when you arrive and when you can actually check into your hotel but those breaks exist.  If you cannot avoid them you should consider them.  If you have a layover to change flights, knowing the layout of the airport can help whether you can just know a direction for your connecting flight for a quick transition or what they have to do or eat in the airport if you have a longer layover.  This information is especially helpful when you have to go through customs in between.  For good planning for my arrival I like to notify the hotel of my arrival time as well as to check out what is around the airport that is open when I will get there.  You may have several hours to kill between landing and the official check in time for the hotel and after an already uncomfortable flight sitting in the lobby for hours is probably not your first choice.

Money Exchange: Even in this day and age where credit is usually king there are times where having some cash is a big bonus.  You can get stiffed if you are not aware of the exchange rate as convenience in exchanging money usually comes at a high cost.  Take some time to look up the exchange rate so you can know a good deal when you see one (this good rate is usually not found at the airport exchanges).  This is especially true for transportation such as cabs as you are taking a gamble assuming they will take a credit card and if there is not a big surcharge for using credit.   Also check with your bank as pulling cash from an ATM or using your card for purchases can get you the exchange rate without an high fee to do so.

Pre-plan transportation: Every country and city is different and so is there transportation options.  Not knowing what options you have can leave you paying twice as much or without many options at all.  Your hotel should have some quick information for how to get to them so it is a great place to start.  If you are a bit more adventurous the public transportation options in many cities abound, just be careful on times of operation.  Finally riding in style may not be as high of a cost as you think.  When you take the time to research limo services often they are comparable to that of a cab without the hassle of waiting in line and hoping you are not being taken for a ride (literally and figuratively).

Don’t assume the same phone or data access.  At home everything is at the touch of a finger as if you don’t know you can always Google it.  Once you land someplace else those rules changes as you may either not have access or it may come at a pretty high cost.  Many major airports have free Wi-Fi but if you are not sure then check.  Also makes sure to explore the international cell phone options your provider has so you are not hit with an enormous bill on your return.  Also write down a couple of important facts like hotel number and address someplace you can access them regardless of your service in case something comes up.  Having email confirmations are good, but you may need to know hotel address or phone number even when you cannot access the internet like in filling out your customs paperwork.

Changing up a look with a jacket dress

Jacket dress Jackets are a winner on the warmth department, but some jackets can end up looking big and bulky instead of streamlined and stylish.  In the winter time warmth is my primary goal, followed by a close second of being stylish.Some of my favorite go to jackets are ones that can happily marrying both warmth and style.  Few styles jacket do it better than the jacket dress.

The trick of the jacket dress is the illusion it provides of a dress.  Usually done by cinching the waist or adding folds or gathers at the bottom, the jacket gives structure as well as style and does both while still highlighting a feminine profile.  You can also add on to the warmth option by layering what you have on under the jacket, and because the jacket is working as a cover all it still can be done with panache.

My go to in the jacket dress department is an urban play on the look by Armani.  The jacket is threaded with a silver overlay making it blend easily with a range of color palettes, from grey to black and even navy.  The jacket top provides a strength from the colorless button closure and structured shoulder.  The waist comes in close to highlight a woman’s curve even in the structure of a jacket.  The final feminine flair is thrown in as the waist expands out to a skirt like finish at the bottom.  Not only is it femine and warm it gives perfect coverage to quickly dress up a pretty casual outfit of jeans and a t-shirt.  It can be dressed up or dressed down effortlessly and is the best of both worlds in the jacket department.

 

Fighting shine control with Mary Kay Transulcent Loose Powder

Influenser Box Mary Kay

Having oily skin has always been my curse.  I start the day off with a clean wash and with my makeup applied I leave my house usually feeling flawless.  It is not until the day progresses and I do a quick pass by a mirror that I quickly realize the oil monster has taken the polished look I left the house with and turned it into an oil slick.  This problem is only magnetized when it comes time to take a picture.  It is hard to take a great pic with a face full of shine.  My options are to wipe the shine off, and along with it my flawless makeup application, or dap and pat my way to a temporary fix.  The Mary Kay Translucent Loose Powder has given me a new solution to curing the shine for a full day of flawlessness.

With the Mary Kay Loose Powder you are applying a new level of absorption.  Sure there are lots of products out there on the market that make the same claim but can result in clogged pores or a heavy look to the makeup application.  It becomes pointless to solve one problem with on a bigger problem when you latter have to battle the problem skin that comes along with clogged pores, especially for oily skin.  Instead the Mary Kay Translucent Loose Powder offers a light powder to absorb oil but not heavy enough to clog the pores.  With easy applications you can easily go from day to night and put in a real heavy hitter in the fight against shine.

The Dating Game Recap

LLSMr. Peebles served as a fabulous backdrop for a fun night of mixing, mingling and raising awareness and funds for a worthy cause, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  The great thing about events put on by It’s Just Lunch is that as a match making service of course they focus on ultimately finding love, but they make sure the road along the way is filled with new experiences and new fun along the way.  As their clientele gives them unique insight on the things that prevent some from finding love on their own, there events plan to assist in overcoming those challenges and opening the door to meeting new people.  For some networking is a breeze as they can flow quickly and smoothly in and out conversations and introductions.  For others, taking the steps to make new connections can be overwhelming.  The event worked to encompass and involve everyone, regardless of their level of outgoingness.

Bachelor and Its Just Lunch Bachelors BachelorettesThe main fun of the event was the Dating Game.  Watching a bachelor and bachelorette go through some fun Q & A to determine who wins a date is always hilarious.  It is funny how even without seeing how someone looks you can get a good sense of who they are from not only their answers to the questions but the tone and enthusiasm in which they answer.  I could almost instantly tell who was pitching hardest to win when questions like “What kind of panties are you wearing” and “What would be your theme song” came up for bat.  When you hit back answers like “none” and “You Can Have Whatever You Like” you are playing to win.

Amber WillisAll of the fun and games for the night really served to highlight the underlying purpose of raising money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  The bachelorette for the event, Amber Willis, is also a nominee for the Women of the Year award for the Gulf Coast Chapter.  The Man and Women of the Year award challenges nominees to campaign to get the word out and the funds flowing all to benefit research and provide hope for those inflicted by this deadly disease.  Amber’s fun personality and passion for this organization showcase why it’s important to show your support and make a donation to the society.  There are few better reasons to get together than to support others in our community in tackling health challenge such as Leukemia or Lymphoma so kudos to Amber in her quest to become the 2014 Woman of the Year. Donating is easy by clicking Here so help now in raising funds with a great woman for an even better cause.

Skin Care for Every Age

Skin Care for every age

I recently took showed my photo album of my trip to Rio to a friend and she commented on how young I looked in the pictures.  Although the trip was just three years ago and I realized that part of the youthful look I had in the pictures was attributed to it being a time where I was truly relaxed and just having fun.  Unfortunately, the real world is not as relaxing and there are demands every day from work and school and friends and family that can wear on our complexion and skin.  As your face is the indicator to the world on how you feel, it is important to do some maintenance at every age to ensure we are putting our best face forward.  When you think about the madness we deal with on a daily basis, why not take some time to pamper your skin?  I stopped in to Chic Esthetiq to get some recommendations on how to continue to keep a youthful glow no matter what your age and stress level are.

In your Twenties: This can be a revitalizing time as many people are outgrowing teen acne.  It is a great time to start a routine as maintenance of a good routine is better than jumping to corrective routines in later years.  With this usually being a busy time you can keep it simple with a cleanser, moisturizer and hydrating serum.  A good moisturizer with SPF production will protect against the fine lines dryness can cause and a night serum (try one with amino acids) can assist with replenishing skin lipids that the fun and partying of your 20’s can wear on.

 

In your Thirties: This can be the age of discovery for new marks and lines on your face.  Every trip to the mirror can be a new adventure of “Where did that come from???”  The great news is a slight tweak to your routine can have a great impact on small problems.  Moving up to a cleanser with some exfoliation component assists in replicating the natural skin exfoliation that occurred more frequently in your twenties.  Even if you don’t have the dreaded eye puff now, it is a great time to begin extra hydration, especially around your eyes, with an eye cream.  Stepping up your moisturizer and sunscreen is also a good idea to beef up your protection from dreaded sun rays.

 

In Your Forties: Your body naturally slows down in producing some important components to youthful skin at this age, but the good news is there are products that can do what nature can no longer do.  Mixing up your exfoliation with a foaming cleanser can assist in washing dead skin cells off consistently.  Your moisturizer and SPF combo now should also have some extra protection, try looking for one that fights free radicals with a healthy dose of antioxidants.  Serums that contain peptides do a great job rebuilding collagen and back up the changes with a retinoid based serum to give your texture a renewal.  Don’t forget the importance of a moisturizer!  Investing in one with an additional boost of hyaluronic acid not only supplies the skin with a healthy dose of hydration but it also helps your skin retain that moisture.

For more tips on great skin care advice check out the great staff at Chic Esthetiq.

Photo courtesy of Chic Esthetiq

The Urban Market Houston Antique Show

Secretly I used to love the Antique’s Roadshow.  Something about the thrill of finding something that had been discarded only to find it is worth amazing amounts always made me want to try out antiquing myself.  As a serial shopper it seems easy enough to start the hunt but I never truly knew where to begin.  This weekend I was able to attend The Urban Market Houston Antique Show and on the map of antiquing the event is a big “X” marks the spot.

The event rolls around three times a year in Houston and the first show of the year was no disappointment.  As I am in the midst of moving into a new home inspiration abounded.  The thing that always inspires me with idea of antiquing is the chance to re-purpose something that has its own story and fit it into my own life and style.  This show leaves a great pebble trail to finds that speak to your style.  In strolling around the Antiques Show there are great finds from everything from jewelry to furniture to art and collectibles.  Each booth presents the opportunity to not only find something awesome but also get some more clues on your Antique Treasure Hunt.  The vendors for the booth all have their own style and when you find one that speaks to you, you have a partner on your hunt.  There is nothing better than having a guide to show you the ropes as you begin on your roads to antiquing.  And if you are no novice to the process expanding your horizons and getting some great deals in the process.  No matter where you are in the process the Urban Market Houston Antique Show is a good way to get some great finds with some great prices as you find your own antiquing style.

Adding some party pizazz with a specialty cocktail

 

With the Super Bowl coming up there are few better times to have a good, old-fashioned house party.  If you think about sitting in a room full of mostly stranger compared with being in a place where you can focus on the game with food and drinks within reach around people you actually like a house party can be an awesome alternative.  On the downside, party planning can be expensive and obnoxious to think of what drinks that work for the masses. Game Day Bar A great way to avoid some of the drink confusion is choosing a signature drink.  It narrows down what you have to buy, makes the options for others easy, and opens the door for others to pick (and supply) their pleasure if you don’t have what they want.

 

Spec’s downtown recently offered a new Specsology class to give some insight on some drink options that can personalize your party and as a bonus can be made in a punch size for your convenience.

 

Quarterback SpritzQuarterback Spritz

This drink is great because it has such a wide tasting appeal.  For those who like darks you are giving them something that works for them, which is rare in a punch.  For those who are little more leery of darks, the pear nectar and orange liqueur mellow it out.  As the biggest surprise to the recipe the ginger beer really breaks up some of the sour favor and makes it a drink you keep can in hand throughout the entire game.

 

Draft PickDraft Pick

A great choice when trying to marry beer lovers with those who prefer something harder.  This drink starts with a base of a flavored vodka that focuses on taste instead of sweetness.  You add a twist with chipotle pineapple syrup that gives some sweetness and a kick.  These flavors are a great compliment to some game day favorite food choices like wings and burgers.  To finish it out you add a great wheat beer.  In the room people who loved and hated beer alike could find something that worked for them in the drink.  The mix of alcohol and beer can also work well on the scale of almost any budget.

 

1st and 101st and 10

This drink is a great alternative to a margarita.  In short the ingredients are similar but for some tequila just isn’t their cup of tea.  Rum is a pretty smooth alternative that goes down easy and although strong is pretty refreshing.  By making it a punch you can still leave out some key ingredients like simple syrup to allow your guest to customize the drink to fit their taste.

 

No matter how you do it this is sure to be a great Super Bowl game, enjoying the game around friends and family can a great experience even better.

 

Building new Holiday traditions

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year in part to the great memories I have as a kid from Christmas.  As a child Christmas brought the excitement of Santa Clause and presents, but in looking back as an adult what truly made the holidays specials were the laughs and joy that came from spending time with my crazy family.  From decorating the tree, to “This Christmas” blasting at seven in the morning, to midnight mass, Christmas has a special place in my heart and taught me a lot about the meaning of family.  As a parent myself, however, my challenge is not to just rehash my fond memories for my daughter, but to build new ones so she can cherish our modern Christmas traditions.

Moody Garden’s Festival of Lights has become one of the special experiences I share with my daughter in building our own Christmas memories.  Christmas presents a lot of challenges to really spending quality time with our families despite it being the holiday season.   Between shopping, cooking, and work Christmas time can be pretty stressful.  In building my new holiday traditions I really like to focus on doing things that really encourage conversation and a shared experience.  For several years now I have gone to the Festival of Lights not only because it is fun for young and old alike, but because in the hour long sightseeing tour you really get a chance to spend some quality time.   It’s a “bring your own fun” kind of setting that does not bring the thrill of a movie or the commercialism of Santa.  What it does bring is a chance to laugh and talk with the best ingredient of all, love and attention.  All of Moody Garden’s is beautifully decorated with scenes celebrating everything from the Nativity to Sponge Bob.   You can go your own paste and take time to talk about what you like and don’t like, take in the views, and snap some great pics of fun times.

The holiday attractions at Moody Gardens offer an array of activities that remind me it’s the little things that often stand the test of time in our memories on the things we love about the holidays.  One of the highlights for me every year is the s’more camp where you can roast your s’mores on an open fire.  There is something about warm marshmallows that melts my heart and the art of making s’mores is definitely a family competition in my house.  The Festival of Lights always has a wealth of entertainment options like jugglers to keep you laughing on your walk and the holiday treats to keep you warm inside out.  From young to old in between the 4D movies, IMAX, ice skating, sledding and Festival of Lights there is enough excitement for any age to choose their favorites and enjoy time with the family.  Taking time to really appreciate those small blessing really is what makes the season right for me.

DTI Lesson 4 – Taking your style on the road

imageI know that when choosing traveling in comfort or in style a lot of people choose comfort hands down.  There is nothing really stylish about sitting in a small uncomfortable seat surrounded by strangers for hours.  The comfort movement has taken people from wearing dresses and slacks when they travel to work out clothes.  For me the transition is a little too drastic.  Aside from my personal belief of wearing workout clothes only if you actually work out and usually when you are actually doing so, there can be a happy medium between being comfortable and being stylish when you travel.  Having a little structure in your clothes don’t have to necessarily take away from the comfort and let’s be honest, there are all things about our body shape that we may not want to emphasis in super tight clothing.  Plus you never know when opportunity will strike and being your best, comfortable self at the airport ensures you are always prepared and are ready to hit the road whenever you land.

The key for me when traveling is to start with some basics and add layers.  Planes are innately cold to me so I always need a jacket or something warm on the plane.  Wearing the piece you choose to do so also relieves some packing space if you can wear it instead of carrying it (this goes for shoes too).  An added bonus is it lets you regulate the temperature from your point departure and arrival city.  For my most recent trip I choose to start pretty simple.  By sticking with all black leggings and top I knew I would be comfortable and can quickly add small easy accessories to dress up the look.

After heading out in my casual look I dressed it up a little by adding a nice sweater.  The design is reminiscent of a sweater dress and it lets me pull off a couple of different looks and keep warm.  I decided to travel in UGGS mainly because of the plane temperature but they are also really comfortable. Not to mention they are a monster to try to fit in my suitcase. The germaphobe in me hates taking my shoes off and walking on my bare feet during security.  Adding the sweater alone dresses the look up externally while giving me the same underlying comfort I began with.

Finally once I landed in DC I was ready to head to dinner.  I dressed up my look by adding a belt and boots and was ready for a night out.  It turns out I was a lot warmer in DC but fortunately by keeping it simple I could remove the jacket and still kept the look pretty trendy with all black and a cool pair of boots.  All in all I think it was a good balance of comfort and style that quickly took me through three very different looks and environments.

Chicago Weekend Wrap Up

White Wine Sangria at Wishbone

White Wine Sangria at Wishbone

Without question if I had to choose a city that best fit my ideal lifestyle it would be Chicago.  It provides my perfect mix of food, fun, and culture.  This past weekend I got a chance to do a little catching up with some of my favorite college friends and of course explore the city that I love (especially in the summer time).  Of course I did not stray from my usual agenda of food, food and more food.  One of the best things about a walking city is you have a chance to work up a healthy appetite so you can skip calorie counting and dive in for the favor. In that light I thought I would highlight some of my new and old favs that are a must on my list of things to eat in Chicago.

  • Joe’s Stone Crab: Regardless of if I am in Chicago, Las Vegas or Miami, Joe’s is always a necessity for me.  I kept it pretty simple with this visit as I already had plans for dinner.  I just cannot resist the stone crab when it starts a calling.  As promised the claws are always fresh and delivered cracked to take the manual labor out of reaching the deliciousness.  As great as the claws are, the mustard may be just what sets Joe’s apart.  It is the perfect complement to the clean favor of the stone crabs and with the 7 claws that came with my order I managed to go through four containers of mustard.  Shouts out to the waiter for not judging me.
  • The Girl and the Goat: Normally once I am hungry notice of a 2 hour wait will send me running to the next restaurant.  As a big fan of Top Chef, once my friend suggested this restaurant owned by Stephanie Izard I knew I have to give it, and my patience, a try.  The plus side to the two hour wait is definitely getting some dedicated bar time.  Once you sit at a table it is easy to revert to old favorites. By sitting at the bar, however, there is ample opportunity to see what is popular and which drinks passing by that might strike your fancy.  Their Sidecar was a definite winner for me!  Although a lot more traditional than some trendy drinks, the Sidecar has not stood the test of time without cause.  It’s strong enough to catch your attention, but avoids the in your face taste that some drinkers avoid.For dinner I was lucky to dine with another foodie and we took the tasting vibe from the bar to the table.  For the night we dined on fried pickles, squash blossom Rangoon, diver scallops, pan roasted halibut, however, the favorite of the night came as a surprise.  Their cauliflower is awesome!!!! Only as an adult have I branched out and really developed a love of cauliflower.  As a kid I just remember thinking had no favor at all.  Prepared at The Girl and the Goat my taste buds went in completely the opposite direction.  The cauliflower still had some bite and crunch to it and added with the pine nuts and pickled peppers it was a flavor explosion in my mouth.  I was literally stuffed so finishing it was impossible, well until morning hit and I unwrapped my leftovers for breakfast!  I would definitely put this on my must do’s when in Chicago.
  • Wishbone: I love Sunday’s where you can just take it easy and brunch is usually at the top of my lists on days like this.  Wishbone is one of my old time favorites in Chicago for brunch.  They quickly made a fan of me years ago by serving some delicious chicken sausage.  I know this may not sound like much but when don’t eat beef or pork a breakfast sausage can be hard to come by.  For my companions the hit of the meal was definitely the sangria.  The white wine sangria they offered as a special was filled to the brim with watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew melon, berries and as a surprise a slice of cucumber. The cucumber twist definitely elevated the drink mixing in a refreshing component you don’t always find in sangria.  Add in favorites such as shrimp and grits and crab cake benedict, good friends and a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I cannot think of a better way to close out a fabulous trip!
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