Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Classy Woman Doesn't Comment on Everything



Some speak because they feel they have something truly valuable to add to the conversation while others share their personal experiences, opinions and advice when they are with someone they feel they can relate to or help, then there are those who don't know when to stop talking and feel everything requires their personal commentary, leaving little mystery and lacking discretion. 

As we grow and mature over time, we will realize that there is great value in remaining silent sometimes and just taking things in whether we are a student in class, on our first date, interviewing for a promising job opportunity or mingling with others at a dinner party. I don't know about you, but sometimes I find it interesting to just 'people watch'. See how people interact, react, initiate conversation, etc. I also learn a lot from the people who always feel the need to comment, it says a lot about who they are. Although their intentions may be good, it can reveal their insecurity, pride, ego and more. 

We gain so much more when we are curious and ask questions and listen for answers vs. feel the need to say something, anything, just to be included. We must be especially mindful of this in today's social media age where everyone is encouraged to comment and share their opinions although it's not always warranted.

Thanks for Reading!

XO


Friday, April 11, 2014

My Top 10 Travel Tips



I've been thinking a lot about traveling lately. Maybe it's the influx of visitors from out of state and out of the country who flock to Florida during springtime for relaxing beach days and fun filled theme-parks or perhaps it's the fact that I'm long overdue for a vacation! ;) The last time I traveled was when I was 5 weeks pregnant which was Christmas of 2012. We got so busy with work, saving money and planning for baby that we hadn't even planned a weekend getaway nor recently before hubby left for China. I find myself daydreaming about some of the fabulous places we've visited over the past few years. I feel very fortunate to have traveled to nearly 30 countries. I know some of you travel quite a bit also-whether it be for work or pleasure but there are some of you who rarely get the chance, so I thought I'd share some of my personal travel tips with you to make for a smoother trip. For those who travel often, today's post will be a refresher.





1.  What to Wear When Flying-You don't need to wear 4" stilettos to look stylish while traveling by plane, likewise, you shouldn't resort to sweats to be comfortable for a long flight. The key is to dress in layers, wear fabric that has a bit of stretch and breathes well and that doesn't wrinkle beyond belief such as linen, nothing says 'I just sat on a plane for 12 hours and look like a wrinkled mess' quite like linen. If you're heading somewhere warm, pack it into your suitcase instead. Jeans, khakis or a dress are all suitable. Flats are the best option as you're less likely to trip while navigating the airport/boarding the plane and if you find yourself nearly missing your flight, it's a lot harder to run with heels! ;) I typically wear a tank top or tee with a cardigan because airplane temperatures change in-flight. In winter months, I keep my scarf with me in my carry-on bag in case it gets drafty. I generally wear a pair of skinny jeans with a bit of stretch and add a pop of color and pattern to keep it interesting-ballet flats are my go-to for footwear.

2. You Can Never Arrive Too Early- Whether you're cruising, flying, driving or taking a train, always give yourself lots of extra time by checking in early. I always give myself 2 hours for domestic and 3 hours for international flights. When driving to catch a cruise, we always give ourselves a few extra hours. There's nothing worse than the feeling of being stuck in traffic or rushing through the airport wondering if you're going to make it in time for your trip! While we're on the subject, when you book a flight which has a connection, make sure it provides a reasonable amount of time to get from one gate to the next. I've been in the scenario a few times now where I've had 15 minutes to get to a whole other terminal and watched my airplane pulling away from the gate as soon as I arrived to it. That's not fun! Obviously sometimes between weather issues, etc., you won't always be able to avoid it every time but by planning in advance, you reduce your chances.

3. Extra Legroom is Worth the Fee-If you're flying coach and you're tall like I am, you'll appreciate extra leg room. There are a few areas on the plane that allow for extra legroom (they are emergency exits) but due to their popularity over the years they went from free to an up-charge. If you're flying for an hour or two, no biggie but if you're flying for 3+ hours I highly recommend the upgraded seat as it feels far less confined. You can stretch your legs out an the beauty is, in certain seats such as the seat closest to the front of the plane just behind first class, there is nobody in front of you to recline their seat back towards you-bonus! The typical fee range is between $25-50 per flight.

4. Less is More While Packing-I'll admit, when it comes to traveling for pleasure I'm not the expert on packing lightly because I like options and I like taking photos and don't want to be wearing the same thing over and over again. I will tell you though, that traveling with less luggage and weight makes things far more enjoyable! If you're hiring a porter and bellhop everywhere you go then it may not be an issue but if you're lugging that luggage yourself, especially if you're traveling with kiddos, do yourself a favor and become a pro at packing clothing that can be worn multiple ways and is versatile. Over the years I've become much better, if I really have to I can pare down and make it work. With the extra fee for second and often even first pieces of luggage, less bags mean more savings also. All in all, it's less stuff to re-pack on the way back home as well which can save you time and hassle. Here's a list from a previous post I wrote on what not to forget when packing.

5. Air Miles- Start a frequent flyer program with every airline your fly on, you never know when you'll be flying that particular airline again and for longer flights, the points can add up quickly. It's always good to inquire about airlines that are in affiliation with others where your points can be added. Keep the cards in a file folder marked travel so you don't have to tote them around in your wallet and if you find yourself flying one airline over another, try to continue to be consistent as you'll accumulate points faster. Another great earn miles faster is with a special credit card such as Aeroplan where you earn points just for buying everything you normally would, but collect faster for grocery, drug store and gas purchases. I love that they even have a sliding scale on spending to so you can determine how many miles you'll gain annually. As with all credit cards, as long as you pay your cards down in full each month, it's advantageous.

6. If Something Isn't Up to Par, Speak Up!- Too many people save up for months for a dream vacation only to become disappointed with certain details along the way. The flight was cancelled to due mechanical difficulty and instead flies out the next day losing a day in the process, the hotel room you booked is not at all like what you saw online or there was construction outside your window, the cruise cabin you booked was supposed to be non-smoking and you can smell smoke wafting from the crew bar on the deck above you or maybe the rental car you booked had features in the car that wouldn't work properly making your trip less enjoyable. Whatever the case may be, speak up! It's your vacation at stake! By the way, all of the examples shared here are ones I've personally experienced and received upgrades or compensation for by bringing it the attention of the appropriate person. Sometime there may not be another hotel room or cruise cabin available but you may get a serious price reduction for the inconvenience.

7. Read the Reviews-Before I book any trip, whether it be a cruise via a certain ship or cruise line in general, or buy tickets for an excursion or choose a hotel, I ALWAYS read the reviews. Sites like Hotels.com not only offer some of the best prices but the reviews are very candid and have helped sway me one way or another upon making my decisions. There is no better way to know then to read about others' experiences first hand, often there are little hidden tips too about extra perks at the hotel that you may not have known about otherwise or suggestions for great restaurants in the area, etc. When I comes to cruises in particular, this is a MUST! Why? Because unlike a hotel, you cannot just pack up and leave, it becomes your temporary home for the length of your vacation.

8. Make a List & Check it Off-Some people do fabulously well when it comes to packing last minute, unfortunately I'm not one of them, it leaves me feeling a bit frazzled. My husband on the other hand, is notorious for this however when we travel together he typically asks to use my toothpaste because he forgot his or sunscreen, lip balm, etc. I find list work really well and if you travel pretty often, it's helpful to create a list that you can reuse again and again in Microsoft word with check boxes so you can check things off as you place them into your luggage. I usually print out my list 3 days in advance so that I can run out and buy anything I'm out of and will need such as mints, an extra memory card for my camera, earplugs for the flight, travel size containers for toiletries, etc. The key is to only check it off once it's in your bag so you can't leave anything behind. I leave the final list the day of in my bathroom with the toiletries I'm packing. This method has never failed me and I highly recommend it.

9. Tours & Excursions- A note on organized tours and excursions... they are typically more expensive when purchased through a hotel or a cruise ship. Having said that, especially when you are traveling via a cruise ship, they will ensure you get back onto the ship in time for the port departure time and if they don't the ship will wait for you as they have not only several passengers but also crew members. The locals will offer you a cheaper price but there are no guarantees. Sometimes reassurance is better than saving money. My husband was a professional speaker working on a ship, we were in St. Thomas enjoying a beach day. Let's just say that the taxi driver never came back and picked us up when he said he would. We waited a little longer than had to catch another ride in an area where taxis don't frequent and it was a bit of a drive to get back to our ship. It involved us jumping off a bus we were lucky enough to find and flagging down a police officer whom we paid $20 to give us a police escort back to the ship. Adventurous and nail-biting-yes but not a great feeling when you  can hear the ship making one of three 'all aboard' calls. Thankfully we made it with time to spare but we've been extra cautious ever since that episode.

10. Pack Your Carry-On Bag Like It's All You Have- With the fees of even a first piece of luggage these days, many opt to pack for their entire trip's worth of belongings into a carry-on bag (if it's a short weekend trip or only for a day or two). We've all heard horror stories of people having their luggage lost. Perhaps the worst one I've heard of is a lady who had her luggage lost before boarding a cruise ship for 10 days! She ended up having to buy everything from toiletries to a swimsuit on the ship and clothing and undergarments as soon as she reached her first port! Meet aviation guidelines on bag size and ounce limits on toiletries. Pack any prescription medication, makeup, 3 days worth of clothing by mixing and matching, 5+ days worth of undergarments (for a longer trip), 1 swimsuit (if you're bringing one), 1-2 pairs of shoes (wearing your bulkiest pair). Roll your clothes and they will not only fit better but end up less wrinkled. God forbid anything goes awry, but if it does, you'll be prepared and not scrambling. If you want more tips, here's a post I wrote when this blog was in its infancy titled all about How to Pack a Carry-on Bag.

*A general overall tip, opt for toiletry bottles that have a screw on lid, the pop top/flip top don't always stay closed. I arrived in Rome once with shampoo over a portion of my clothing as the container slightly flipped open (and it was wrapped inside another bag. Thankfully it was an area with mostly swimsuits and it all washed out. A good rule of thumb if you use the pop/flip top are to cover the lids with tape from one side of the bottle to the other-that works well too in preventing a mess. I always place any liquids inside ziploc bags and then wrap inside another grocery bag-which I reuse on the way home for dirty clothing or a pair of shoes.


Here are some Airplane Etiquette tips and some Cruise Ship Etiquette guidelines if you happen to be new to either.

There are SO many other things to consider while traveling but these are the top 10 tips that come to mind from my personal experiences. Now it's your turn, I'd love to hear what YOUR best travel tips are!

Thanks for Reading!

XO





*image sources: (1), (2)

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Make Time for Personal Growth



I'm a huge proponent of self improvement and personal growth. I started this very blog and my Facebook Community page for this very reason, with the intention of being a resource to others who are looking to work on becoming more ladylike, elegant and classy. 

Unlike other things we may spend time on or invest money in, we will never go wrong when we invest in ourselves! Education is key, whether it's taking a class or course, doing some reading on our own to gain new knowledge and then applying the principles, taking the time to work hands-on or practice (such as cooking, baking, a particular sport or hobby, getting a new business off the ground), our lives will be so much richer for it! 

Don't miss out on opportunities to work on yourself, even when it's painful, uncomfortable or time consuming. Look at Olympic athletes, I know for sure they have pushed through pain, self-doubt, fatigue and more to reach their greatest goals. We need to consider ourselves like diamonds in the rough, becoming more polished and sparkling with each new day we choose to further develop who we are. A better you is in your future! 




Maybe you wish to expand your vocabulary? Why not sign up for the word of the day with dictionary.com. Perhaps your goal is to get into better shape, you could start by making a daily commitment of 30 mins during a time of the day that will really work for you to get in a jog/walk/run or do a yoga DVD, once you find success with this level of consistency, incorporate other activities or increase the length of your workouts. If you've been thinking about how to create a more feminine, ladylike and elegant wardrobe, you could read  books, magazines or blog posts with some guidelines such as this one I wrote on 'How to Dress Classy'. Spend a few hours on the weekend going through your closet, donating what no longer works, keeping the items of the best quality and condition that flatter your figure and work well with other pieces to create a versatile wardrobe. Maybe you've been wishing that you were a better cook for yourself, your husband or your entire family, why not take a cooking class? How about spending one day per week trying out a new recipe or two until you've nailed it? You could also subscribe to food magazines that provide interesting recipes and/or cooking tips. 

Above are just a few examples, there are so many more aspects that we as women might wish to improve upon. I know you have your own, so what's stopping you from getting there right now? The key is to get busy with the 'doing' instead of just thinking about how we wish things were better or different. Of all the things we pour our time and energy into, shaping who we are should be at the top of the list. Yes, we may have children to care for and raise up but they need to see a role model who never stops learning, growing and endeavoring to be better than they were yesterday, we are their greatest example!

Thanks for Reading!

XO

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Life's Little Pleasures: Free Perks!




Many months ago when I was pregnant with Lily, I started a baby registry like many moms-to-be. Upon choosing the store I wanted to register at (which was BuyBuyBaby) I had a few criteria: helpful and very knowledgeable staff, clean/organized store that's easy for me and those buying from the registry to shop in and they offered all of the types of products I was most interested in, it was an easy decision. What I loved most was the free perks that other stores didn't offer, and in life that often helps us decide when going with one company vs. another or one product compares with a competing one. I loved that the store offered complimentary gift wrapping/ tissue paper and gift giving bags (with the store's name on it) to those buying gifts in the store. They also offered the ability to use coupons from their own store or their parent company (Bed Bath & Beyond) which were typically 20% off. In addition, they also offer price matching to assure you are getting the best price and a no hassle return policy even if you don't have your receipt or it's not on your registry. One nice little gift to me was a goody bag upon signing up that had some really great products like a brand new pacifier, one bottle, little toy for a girl, and  a whole lot more. This post is not sponsored by my chosen registry store but it was just one example when I got to thinking about how often we're a member of a program, store or organization and how we end up missing out on life's little pleasures.

Recently I found out that my husband's bank (TD Bank) offers a really neat program for those who enjoy concerts. We always think of banks for mainly just banking and saving money however many have some neat programs like referral programs that get both you and the person you refer some cash in hand or in this case with TD Music access, the ability to take advantage of VIP experiences, concert credits, merchandise discounts, special offers, etc., just for being a member of the bank. I thought that was pretty neat considering there was no fee.




Here is a List of 10 Free Perks:

1. Credit cards-Many not only offer rewards points but offer free trip protection for flights or insurance coverage for rental cars, extended warranty coverage, emergency travel assistance, roadside assistance and more. This is huge-let your credit card do more to work for you!

2. OfficeMax-For business owners or anyone, I personally love the MaxPerks rewards program. You collect points for purchases but I accumulate them quickly by recycling my ink cartridges. My HP all-in-one uses one black and 5 color cartridges so I turn them in and collect $3 in credits for each one, that's an easy $18 towards anything I want in the store (it's usually spent on ink and paper).

3. Starbucks Rewards-Instead of using cash, use/buy yourself a gift card and sign up online for an account. After 5 drink purchases you become part of the rewards program where you can earn free drinks/food on your birthday and other fun freebies like free refills in-store. Once you have 30 drinks/food items purchased you become a gold member and there are a bunch of other great rewards like personalized offers and free food or drink every 12th visit. Alternatively, if you like the taste of Starbucks but prefer the cost of at-home brewing instead, here's a great little recipe I posted many moons ago on how to make homemade iced coffee drinks for pennies.

4. Meet with a Personal Trainer-Many gyms offer freebies that members don't even realize such as a free health assessment or meeting with a personal trainer. If you are new to a gym, absolutely have them give you a tour and have trainer or another staff member properly show you how to use each piece of equipment-that's what they are there for and it will help you feel less intimidated and become successful.

5. In-Service Car Washes- Many car dealerships offer a free car wash service after the vehicle has been worked on, some will even give it a quick vacuum as well.

6. Massage Therapy- I know of many people who work within companies which offer specific benefits such as $500 per calendar year in Massage Therapy, Acupuncture and Chiropractic care (a company I worked for previously offered a really nice package and I took full advantage of it). While it's essential when you are injured, there is nothing wrong with spending a Saturday afternoon at the spa getting in a relaxing and soothing massage. Too many people get so busy that they forget all about it and really if you're sitting at a desk for work, it's important to care for your back and spine.

7. Home Energy Audit- A few years ago we learned that our utility company offered a free home energy report. We had someone come out and see where we had leaks in our windows/doors, looked at our HVAC system, inspected our attic and insulation, etc. They offered ways to save money, ie: lowering our hot water tank and provided a free kit which included a CFL light bulb, a low flow shower head, some weather stripping and aerators for our taps.

8. Energy Credits-Two years ago we decided to replace all of the original windows in our 55 year old home. It made a considerable difference as we opted for tinted low-e windows which are double pane. We qualified for 2 energy credits. One was a lump sum credit towards our utility bill which actually covered roughly 3 months and the other was a check with another nice total for us as an additional credit. They exist for windows, insulation, replacing toilets, changing thermostats and more. Don't miss out! If you're changing these items in your home anyway, it will help offset the cost.

9. Frequent Visitor Punch Cards-These are more small scale, but if you frequent a few locals, why not keep the punch card in your wallet. I keep 3 on hand that I use regularly, one being the fresh juice bar card from Whole Foods Market, I've now received a few free drinks and at $5-6 dollars a pop, it's a nice little thank you.

10. Free Delivery- Many places offer free delivery and we sometimes don't even realize it. Target is a great example of this and you don't have to meet a spending requirement. By using your Target Red card (Credit or Debit) at checkout, you automatically save 5% on your purchase total and receive free shipping not matter what the amount. That alone is reason enough to sign up for a Red card. I have the debit version and love it. For those who do not wish to sign up, they'll still offer free shipping but the minimum purchase requirement is $50.  I was also surprised several years ago to learn that my library allows you to order books and educational DVD's online and they'll be delivered to your home. It's one less trip I have to make which is nice. Grocery stores, pharmacies, etc., sometimes offer free delivery. Get in the habit of asking!



I enjoy saving money and taking advantage of life's little pleasures at the same time. With just a bit of planning and thought, we can all enjoy more from life with the perks that are available to us. If you enjoy saving money and using coupons to stay on budget, here's a post from my archives on Extreme Couponing Etquette.


Now, what are YOUR favorite perks?

Thanks for Reading!

XO



*image source

*This was a sponsored post by TD Bank however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday's Thought...We Can Do All Things!




I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! This is my all-time favorite scripture (and I know it is for many others too), it always sees me through. We must remember that there is an emphasis on the world "ALL", the scripture does not say 'some' things, this is His promise. Sometimes we forget this but there is a reason why the word 'all' was chosen, to give us hope that we may conquer anything that stands before us, like our most challenging days.

On a personal note I've been feeling a bit weary and alone lately hence my lack of posts. I'm 2 months into caring for Lily on my own from sun up to sun down and I can say that I'm admittedly exhausted many days and honestly overwhelmed at times as I'm juggling a lot (I know many of you can relate and even may be in the same position). I do know that His strength will keep me going when my own fades and I become weak. 

Wishing you all a fabulous and productive week ahead. Let's stay strong! 

Thanks for Reading,

XOXO

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