Perfect Picks for Mother’s Day gifts

Happy Mothers day greeting cardIn a little over a week the annual celebration of all things mom will begin!  For the years of pain, struggle, laughter and tears, on May 10th you get a chance to reward that special lady in your life who can never be replaced.  But with the fun of the celebration comes the dread of trying to find a present that really celebrates all that your mom does for you and all that she means to you.  I am not a big fan of the money present as I think personal presents are the best at embodying the emotions of motherly love.  That being said it can be a really challenge to find a great present for someone who either has everything or doesn’t ask for anything.  Here are some tips to finding a gift that is sure to put a smile on her face.

Pay Attention: Every mom is different so there is no list in the world that will give you a perfect answer for every situation.  There is great news though, you can get the perfect fit for your mom straight from the source just by paying attention.  The things that are most cherished are usually things that can be utilized frequently so be it a great pair of earrings or a new apron that will make her life easier paying attention to her daily challenges is the best way to tune into what your mom wants.  If that is just impossible challenge how well you know your mom with starting in a category she likes and go from there.  For instance if she is a music lover perhaps a dual record player/digital music player may be something she did not even think of but is a perfect fit. If you are unsure about your gift make sure you include the why with the present.  Knowing someone put some extra thought into you always gives you the warm and fuzzies even if the result isn’t a perfect fit.

Staycation: As a mother, sometimes on Mother’s Day I just want to get away.  No matter how much your family is on their best behavior, some of the habits that require moms to work pop up any time they are around, yes even on Mother’s Day.  Putting her in a hotel for the night or weekend allows her to free herself from the mommy world and just get back to being herself.  Yes under all the motherly duties there is just a woman under there and probably a tired one.  A day away can end up with a happier her and chances are in the end a happier you.

Digital Photo Frame: In looking at her favorite things chances are that you, her family, is at the top of her list.  With a digital frame you get to pull some of your favorite moments with your mom and load them for her so she has a functional present right out of the gate.  With new innovations in frames like the line from Nixplay you also have access to convenient features like Wi-Fi and an email address to automatically add pictures.  This way your mom doesn’t have to be bogged down with the technology of it all and you can add music, pictures, and quotes on a continual basis that she can enjoy.

Little things count too: Whether it’s because you are young or your money is funny sometimes our desire to do something nice for our mom is not matched by our bank account.  If you don’t have cash then you still have you.  Going out of our way to help, be it with the yard or cleaning up the house, takes somethings off of your mom’s plate and gives you some insight on the work she does every day for you (for example cleaning up your room is not a Mother’s Day present but cleaning up the house might be).  Just make sure that if you go this route you don’t just do something you should have already been helping with, go above and beyond to show some appreciate on this day celebrating motherhood.

Travel Review: The Intercontinental Sydney

Intercontinental Sydney (5)As with many historical cities, there are many parts of Sydney that are a throwback to a historical era long pasted.  Although located in the Circular Quay and surrounded by historical foundations of the city such as the Botanical Gardens and the Rocks area, the Intercontinental Sydney is not one of those throwbacks.  Instead the hotel is a modern perspective of the future of the city focused on the innovation and comfort that comes from a blend of old and new.

Intercontinental Sydney (3)With the hotel being just a block away from the Circular Quay you can easily take advantage of being in one of the most transportation parts of the city.  A short walk to the Central Business District puts you within a short strech to the train system and for the more scenic route a block away from the entrance of the several water ports of the city’s ferry system.  Although I love mobility my favorite feature of the location is actually its closeness to the Botanical Gardens.  The Gardens is a huge park wonderland with features from ponds and lakes, to rose gardens and even some historical homes that are open to the public.  It is a great place to take a picnic, enjoy a view of the Opera House or just read and relax under a tree.  In perfect understanding of one its best features by association the hotel even offers meal options that let you customize a picnic (be it romantic or casual) and head over to the Gardens for a day of relaxation. Intercontinental Sydney (1)Intercontinental Sydney (2)Intercontinental Sydney (4)

In its modern ease the hotel provides a renovation that equally places pieces of the past with the smooth lines and minimal approach of more modern design.  From the sleek lobby to the beautiful seating in the lounge you saw pieces of both the new and old that appeal to those who prefer the sleeker side of things, but still love the heritage, culture and history you can find in Sydney.  Likewise the rooms offer modern design features and modern appeal like a digital greeting and TV guide, combined with some flashback components such as the more antique feel of the bathroom décor.   Other amenities are completely modern such as their indoor pool and work out facilities, offering all of (or even more) of the conveniences of home to ensure you have a fantastic stay. Intercontinental Sydney (10) Intercontinental Sydney (6) Intercontinental Sydney (9)

 

 

 

Touring the Blue Mountains for the nature side of Sydney

Featherdale Wildlife Park in the Blue Mountains (5)One thing I knew in deciding to take a trip as far as Australia, I wanted to get in everything I could during my visit so of course seeing the Outback was high on my to do list.  Although not exactly the Outback I envisioned from growing up watching Crocodile Dundee, I was able to dive into some of the culture, history and natural beauty of more developed portions of Australia by Touring the Blue Mountains.

Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (3) Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (2)The Blue Mountains are a beautiful part of Australia that provides the chance to take on the challenge of exploring the great outdoors.  From state forests to botanical gardens and even waterfalls the area offers a more unchanged vision of Australia.  The Blue Mountains are located about an hour away from Sydney by car so we decided to make the trek using a touring service.  Given the popularity of the destination there are a lot of tours offering the service so you can go with the best price or best amenities.  For us we wanted something a little smaller and with included features like scones and breakfast in the morning and lunch we found our fit with Blue Diamond.  Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (1)It was a sharp contrast to the full buses of visitors to the same attractions but for a little bit more we found the comfort and amenities of the tour to provide both a luxurious and comfortable trip to the Blue Mountains.

The worlds steepest train at Scenic World in the Blue MountainsWithin minutes of heading out of Sydney you clearly see some of the rustic allure of the Blue Mountains.  This old world charm ran throughout our first stop for warm scones and continued as we approached Scenic World.  This park in the Blue Mountains combines the heritage of the area with some new world attractions.  For the true nature lover you have a chance to descend the stairs into the rainforest and for those who want a bit of fun scenic world has to offer attractions such as the Skyway, Cableway and Railway should be right up your alley.  With a claim to fame as the world’s steepest railway, the train should not be missed.  Not only do you get a great view, the steep descent is very much like a roller coaster.  Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (6) Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (5) Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (4) Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (7) Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (8) Scenic World in the Blue Mountains (9)Once you arrive at the bottom you get a chance to explore the way miners lived and worked and use the walkway to explore some of the rainforest that explore the area.  I love being able to take nature walks and with ancient trees, exotic birds, and lush canopy all around it was a great place to relax and enjoy nature with the family.

Featherdale Wildlife Park in the Blue Mountains (4)As our tour stayed a steady pace ahead of the larger tour buses we head to lunch with some brief scenic stops of the 3 Sisters Rock formation before we arrived at one of the main tour highlights, Featherdale Wildlife Park.  There is no way I was leaving Australia without having my chance to get up close and personal with some of the wildlife that Australia is known for: Koalas and Kangaroos.  There are few places close to Sydney to get an up close and personal experience with these animals than Featherdale National Park.  You are literally surrounded by Koalas and Wallabys as you get to feed and pet these cuddly creatures.  Featherdale Wildlife Park in the Blue Mountains (3) Featherdale Wildlife Park in the Blue Mountains (2)My daughter was convinced of her connection with one, although I suspect the ready supply of ice cream cones and food had something to do with the love.  Even the sleepy koala, that naps about 20 hours a day, was present and awake for our Featherdale Tour.  From alligators to bats to Tasmanian Devils the park showcased the natural wildlife Australia has to offer.

As we were whisked away in our small Mercedes van just as the tour buses descended and headed to the ferry we enjoyed one last view of the beauty, charm, and authentic experience found in a tour of the Blue Mountains.

 

 

 

 

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

[slideshow_deploy id=’655′]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.