Throwback Thursdays: This One's for You Mom

Cut in a circle shape for a scrapbook. Oh la la so clever. 

This is one of the last pictures I took with my mom. She took out her oxygen tubes just long enough to say cheese. She looks so proud and beautiful. The picture was taken at the hospital because the doctors advised her not to attend my high school graduation ceremony. My principal recreated the event at the hospital's chapel. She died a few weeks later from breast cancer. I was devastated. I wish I would have known about organizations like CancerCare. Now is my chance to spread the word! If you know of anyone with cancer, their caregivers, loved ones and the bereaved, listen up. CancerCare is here to help.

It was founded in 1944 and is the leading national organization providing free support services and information to help people manage the emotional, practical and financial challenges of cancer. CancerCare helps one million people each year throughout the U.S. and distributes more than $30 million in financial assistance.

Over the next few months, CancerCare will be hosting their largest fundraising programs. Communities in my area will come together to walk or run in memory of those they have lost to cancer, honor survivors, and support those currently facing the disease.

The first Walk/Run for Hope is this weekend on September 14th in Fairfield, CT.  Future walks will be held on Sunday, September 28 in Paramus, NJ and Sunday, November 2, 2014 in Woodbury, NY. I hope you can make it out!

And now it's time to do my speciality: pictures and captions. It's a formula that seems to work over here. This round will be starring me and my mom. Since she died in 2000, she left zero digital impact on the world. No selfies. No Facebook. No sponsored posts. Not even a single Throwback Thursday. Until now! She would have loved all this social media madness.

 Thanks mom for always supported my decision to perm my hair right through the 90's. I can't wait for it to come back. My hair takes a great perm. I wish she could see round two. I suspect in the year 2020, the perms will be even more awesome. Mommy/daughter perms or . . . 
. . . mommy/daughter bobs?
Anna Wintour obviously had a big influence in our hair styles.
We were very high fashion for a brief moment in the early 90's. 
Dog purse alert! Ruff. My mom apparently wanted to steal mine when I wasn't looking.    
I always liked my mom's teeth. When she first married my dad, his father told her she would make a great singer. When she asked him why, he responded, "Because your teeth are slightly bucked." This story always made her laugh. I miss her big old buckaroos.

 This post was brought to you by the makers of Tic Tac® mints. I received compensation to write this post through the Shake, Share & Care® program. All opinions expressed are my own.


NYC House Tour: 5 People, 2 Bedrooms, 1 Bathroom

We've been living in the same apartment for almost 4 years. It's the longest we've ever lived anywhere. Every time the lease renewal comes up, we keep saying we're going to move, but we don't. We just extended our lease until March 1, 2015. Which means only one thing: HOUSE TOUR TIME. It's taken me so long to finally feel like it's finished. That day has arrived.

Ah yes. The universal problem of too many pillows, not enough cases. I think Shakespeare wrote a play about it.
Still haven't hung up any artwork or installed that air conditioner. The chalkboard? It's going to look awesome when it's hung. Decorating my house is so low on my priorities. It's my way of rebelling against the stay at home mom stereotype. I'll show them. Them? Oh, right. No one cares. 
Lamp shades? Optional. The 2 flattest lumpiest pillows on earth? Must-haves.  
I can only imagine what distraction made me stop sweeping and drop the broom immediately. I think it was this post. When inspiration hits, I don't let anything stop me. Not even brooms. 
Most days walking down my hall requires me to do this:
She also babysits my kids. I asked her to send me this pic. 
I started using Olay Regenerist Anti-Aging Peel and Aveeno night cream a few days a week. The results are amazing when the picture is slightly out of focus. 
I have a big decision to make: wash some clothes or push them back into the hamper. I'm so overwhelmed. Important decisions like this make me feel like my life has value. 
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The Dorkiest Family Video Ever Made

What happens when someone with questionable taste finally discovers video templates on her iPhone? This. The dorkiest family video with cringe worthy background music. Who's in charge of creating these things? I don't need nerdy options to tempt me. I can't resist. Here it goes my first production. I love it.  
Also: I'm ready to kill the apostrophe. I'm too lazy to look up whether or not it's needed in the title.

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Royal Caribbean Cruise Taught Me (aka RCC Taught Me): Navigator of the Seas Review

View from the ship on the last night.
The sun has set on summer. Yesterday was the first day of school. Boo. I now have some time to reflect on my experience on Navigator of the Seas. Not that cruising needs much reflecting. It's pretty straight forward: eat, swim, relax, play, sleep, repeat. But here's fives things that surprised me:
1. CULTURE: The social vibe of the cruise depends on where it sails out. I didn't realize this until I sailed out of Texas on the Navigator of the Seas. I would estimate that around 60% of the people I met on board where Texans. So friendly and chatty! And the barbecue ribs I ate on the pool deck on the 5th day? Amazing. The head chef knows Texans take their BBQs seriously and didn't disappoint. I liked experiencing a little flavor of Texas onboard.

2. ACCOMMODATIONS: We stayed in an interior room #6465. No windows, no balcony! I wouldn't recommend this room when traveling with children. I learned quickly that my kids need 3 hrs more sleep than me: 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours at night. What did I do with my time in a pitch dark 150 sq ft room? Luckily Royal Caribbean gave me unlimited wifi so I could chat with Rob and go online, but those 3 hrs each day were rough. I understand the lure of booking an interior room because of the price, but I would have given anything for a balcony to sit out on while my kids slept. So grateful my parents spoiled us with a balcony room on their retirement cruise! It was heaven.

3. PREPARE: Get your legs waxed! Unless you're a gymnast, shaving your legs on board is nearly impossible. It was comical how wet I got the bathroom each day. Royal Caribbean has a spa on board with waxing services if you forget. Do it! My biggest regret!

4. CREW MEMBERS: Salt of the earth. Best service I've ever had in my entire life. They go out of their way to make your stay on board amazing. My room was cleaned twice a day, my kids were adored at the child watch programs, and the waiters gave it their all. I don't know how they have so much energy to keep going day in and day out. It was incredible to watch and exsperience.

5. OFFSHORE ADVENTURES: Book your excursions a week ahead of cruising. I waited until I got on board and the line was huge! I wish I booked it online the week before my cruise. I'm so glad, however, that I booked the simplest excursions. While in Mexico, I booked an excursion to a water park called Playa Mia. It was easy, the kids loved it, and it was all inclusive. Since the ports are less than a day long, I gave up trying to explore the countries in depth. If I wanted to do that I would stay for a week, not a few hours. We swam with stingrays in Grand Cayman, zip lined in Jamaica, and flew down the water slides in Mexico. We did just enough to exhaust ourselves!

Overall, I'm sad it's all over. I would relive summer of 2014 again in a heart beat. Here's some pictures of our adventures on Navigator of the Seas. The ship has everything!
Owen about to go under. It should be noted the pools onboard are filled with salt water. I liked it, but my kids eyes burned if they didn't wear goggles. 
Oscar's outfit cracks me up.  I still can't believe cruises have massive rock climbing walls on board. 
Some good jams on the speakers next to the mini golf course. Ella couldn't help but dance in the middle of her game 
Even match!
Continuing reading to see my favorite pic of the summer and a video of Ella playing at the coolest place on board . . .


3 Ways to Escape the Crowds On A Fully Booked Cruise: Featuring Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas

I know everyone doesn't share my love for cruises. Perhaps boarding a giant boat with 5,000 guests and employees sounds unappealing. Especially to someone trying to get away from it all. Totally reasonable. But I like to thank NYC for teaching me how to find peace and quiet in densely populated areas. And what are cruise ships? Small cities on sea! Last week, I used those skills to fool the kids into thinking we had Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas all to ourselves. With little effort, I think I convinced them it was our own personal yacht. Here's how I did it . . .   

1. Night Swimming. I don't know what everyone else is doing at 11pm, but they aren't swimming. We had the pools and hot tubs practically all to ourselves. There was relaxing music playing on the speakers, the moon was bright, and the warm sea air felt perfect. There was even mesmerizing images of the night sky playing on the movie screen above the pool. We played until 1:30am. Best part? No breaks for sunscreen application. The kids and I kept this schedule up by taking long afternoon naps. 

2. Speciality Dining. While Royal Caribbean offers complimentary dining options, the speciality restaurants are more intimate, the service is unreal, and the food is unique from everything else on board. It's a small price to pay for what you get. For example, I took the kids to Giovanni's Table for lunch. For only $15 each we got a three course meal. One night I went to Izumi Japanese Cuisine and only paid $18 for a plate of sashimi. It was Texas size portions with NY restaurant quality standards. While Navigator of the Seas has four speciality dining options, ships like Quantum of the Seas have even more choices, including one with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. This is definitely the place to be if you want a break from the buffet crowd.
3. The Quiet(er) Deck. The only thing keeping me on the crowded afternoon pool deck was an amazing reggae pop band. I don't even like reggae music! I was shocked how good they were. As soon as they broke down their instruments, I needed a break from the crazy pool deck. I wanted something quiet, outdoors, and with an oceanview. We strolled around the ship until we found the perfect spot on Deck 4 next to the shuffle boards. There's less foot traffic, no speakers playing music, and views of the ocean. I pulled a chair to the edge, put on my head phones and read travel magazines. My kids played shuffle board. It was the slower pace we were craving. I wish the Navigator of the Seas had an actual quiet/relaxation outdoor area on the ship. I would be all over it.  

But that's is just me. Many people go on cruises for the social aspect of it all. They meet family and friends at the pools, the bars, and their dining table. That's fine for a while, but it's good to know there's ways to escape. You can get it all with a little planning and effort. 

We're wrapping up our summer of cruises. The first Royal Caribbean cruise was sponsored by my parents for their retirement party. Congratulations Fran and Dad! The second one was sponsored by Royal Caribbean themselves. They must have found out about my love for cruises. This is the first of two posts I'll be writing in exchange for my stay on Navigator of the Seas. Tomorrow I'll be writing about our favorite (and not so favorite) parts of the trip. 
A serene yet dramatic session of golf during the magic hour.
Night Swimming deserves a (semi) quiet night
Deck 4: Our so-called quiet deck.


This Bathing Suit Changes Everything: Best Swimsuit EVER

i swear i look just like her under my cover up.
Earlier this year, I wanted to lose weight before my family reunion cruise. I started at 145 pounds and my goal was to be 125. Super skinny! Tina Fey recommends everyone experiences skinny at least once in their life. This was going to be the summer I crushed bathing suit season. I joined Weight Watchers and eventually lost 10 pounds. Then I quit Weight Watchers and ate everything in sight. That was fun.

I kept putting off bathing suit shopping because I thought I still had time to lose the weight. A week before the cruise started, I weighed myself: 145 pounds. The exact weight I started at. The same weight I've been since I got married. Since I was in college. Since I graduated from High School. I've always always always landed back at 145. A size 8. Not skinny but not curvy. Just a little lumpy in some areas and droopy in others and fabulous in others. And with that attitude, I went bathing suit shopping. Alone and online. I found this swimsuit at Anthro and took my chances. Even had to buy expedient shipping because I procrastinated so long.

I tried it on and I'm convinced it's the best swim suit in the universe. I have never felt more confident and comfortable walking around the beach until I got it. I've wore it ten days straight and plan on wearing it until it disintegrates. I'm hoping the purple one goes on sale soon so I can buy it too. The ruching does wonders for my squishy belly and the deep neck line? Frumpy mom no more. I'm sure there are knock-off versions at TJ-Maxx, but unless I have to, I hate shopping in actual stores. I'm lazy. Here's the details: I'm 5'5", weigh 145 and ordered it in size 8. It fits perfect.

Turns out I crushed bathing suit season without being stick thin. I never thought it was possible. All I needed was the right suit. The only proof is this excellent footage Ella took while testing out my waterproof case. Nothing but quality entertainment over here.

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Travel Reads: AFar Magazine

This image by Peter Bohler is amazing in AFAR's August/September print edition.
My computer screen isn't doing it justice. 
I picked up the latest issue of AFAR magazine at the airport last week and fell in love. Their hand written titles by Penman Ships are gorgeous. This article about a cynical man's trek to the miracle waters of Lourdes, France made me cry. This article about a girl's search for her violin's maker in Germany made me gasp. The authors and photographers make me feel like I'm their travel companion across the world. When I got home, I went to the website expecting to get the same warmth and intrigue I got from the print edition, but it fell flat. The photos I stared at in the print edition, are tiny thumbnails on the website. I clicked on them to enlarge, but it didn't have the same affect on me. I did like a few things on the website. It's cool that they posted images that didn't make it into the print edition here and there's some really good travel tips in the highlighted section. But overall, AFAR is best enjoyed in print. I just subscribed. I can't wait to see where the next issue takes me. 
Photo by Christian Kerber.

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