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Travel Mom

5 Travel Must-Haves

You’ve been there too – 30,000 miles in the air when you realize you forgot it. Sadly, you’ll have to make due with what you can while silently cursing yourself for your temporary insanity while packing.

I’m not talking about your toothbrush or razor. I’m talking about the travel must-haves that make your trip much more relaxing and leave you refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Heck, I travel enough to warrant a second set of toiletries. Forgotten toothbrush, no more! Basics aren’t included in this list.

But here’s my list of the five things you shouldn’t leave home without.

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1. Battery Pack(s)

Considering that I’m a little bit of a connected-freak, I tend to travel with about five. But for most people, one will suffice. You can find them just about anywhere, like Amazon. Or if you make friends with Twitter, they’ll give you one with your Twitter handle on it. True story.

If you are in an unfamiliar city and can’t find an open outlet in Starbucks to charge your phone (and then find your way back to your hotel), an extra battery pack will become your saving grace.

Trust me – it’s happened to me. And of course it was when my dead phone doubled as my hotel room key too. Go figure.

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2. Smart Watch

Traveling usually includes a lot of walking. If it isn’t tracked, it didn’t count. So, make those steps count.

Plus, a smart watch can usually double as your boarding pass, Starbucks card and oh yeah… A watch that changes time zones all on its own.

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3. Tablet

If you haven’t noticed already, I do love my tech. I most often use my time on a plane to decompress and catch up on some light reading. Although, the tablet could also help you squeeze in some light work if you need to.

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4. A Good Travel Bag

Maybe it’s a tote, maybe it’s a laptop bag, but you should really have a great bag that fits underneath the seat in front of you and includes lots of pockets. You’ll need to stash all your tech; plus some makeup, gum, snacks, books, etc.

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5. A Good Pair of Flats

I’ve talked about my Tory Burch Minnie Travel Flats before, but I can’t tell you how much you need a decent pair of flats for travel. They should be comfortable, fit well and not make your feet stink.

Your neighbor will thank you.

Bonus

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My newest travel must-have is a decent hydrating cream. I’m partial to this one from Bare Minerals. Flights are really good at dehydrating your skin. You feel a bit like a prune when you step off. So even after you’ve thrown down a couple of bottles of water, you still need a little pick me. A good hydrating cream can do just that.

Happy travels!

 

Disclosure: Stay At Work Mom is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Bring on the rain!

I have a thing for old movies. Forget the remakes of recent years, I love the originals.

White Christmas is by far my all-time favorite movie. I’m sure I’ll blog about it at some point. But there’s another movie I should tell you about: The Rainmaker.

So here’s the background, in case you don’t enjoy “vintage movies” (via Wikipedia):

“During the Depression era in the Midwest, con man Bill Starbuck acts as a rainmaker, but is chased out of town after town. One day, he arrives in a drought-ridden rural town in Kansas and showed up at the door of spinsterish Lizzie Curry and the rest of the Curry clan. Lizzie keeps house for her father, H.C., and two brothers on the family cattle ranch. As their farm languishes under the devastating drought, Lizzie’s family worries about her marriage prospects more than about their dying cattle. Prior to Starbuck’s arrival, Lizzie was expecting Sheriff File, for whom she harbors a secret yen, though he declined the family’s invitation to dinner. Starbuck promises to bring rain in exchange for $100. Against Lizzie’s protests, H.C. goes for the deal out of desperation for rain even though he thinks Starbuck is a con.”

Why am I telling you this, you ask?

Because Super Dad and I have a thing for major life experiences and weather. We’re a little like the real-life Bill Starbuck – combo package.

What I mean is: The National Weather Service and the Red Cross should be nervous when we have anything significant happen in our lives. I bet if you made a scatter plot, you’d find a correlation between insane weather and every major life event since we’ve been married. Let’s take a look at the data.

Case Study 1: Our honeymoon

Getting married is considered a major life event – that is, unless you’re Britney Spears and the year is 2004.

But for us, I said “I do” to the love of my life, and we started this crazy, fun and sometimes dramatic journey.

I handled the wedding plans for the most part (go figure), so I left it up to my love to plan the honeymoon. About two weeks before wedding he said, “I think I should tell you where we’re going so you know what to pack.”

Hawaii.

The beaches. The sun. The hiking. The whale watching.

We were going to do it all.

But Mother Nature had other plans.

According to this article, “Nearly 92 inches — or about 7 1/2 feet — of rain were recorded during March at Mount Waialeale, considered the rainiest spot on the planet. The previous record was about 90 inches in April 1971, according to the National Weather Service.

Even the normally dry Honolulu Airport received more rain in the first three months of 2006 than in all of 2005.

The near-biblical downfall left the islands disheveled with debris, flooded homes, and led to a sewage spill in the water off Waikiki.

The largest toll was taken on Kauai, where seven died when a century-old earthen dam strained by the heavy rains burst March 14 sending a wall of water crashing through homes to the sea.

Last week, a sewer line broke when it was overwhelmed by heavy rain and sent some 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the ocean.”

Anyone want to guess which islands our honeymoon consisted of? Honolulu and Kauai.

At dinner one night, we met a man who lived his entire life on the island of Kauai. He told us, “In the last 90 years, this is the first time I’ve ever seen lightning.”

You’re welcome, Hawaii. I blame us.

So we still did the beaches, the sun, the hiking, the whale watching, and a somewhat life-shortening helicopter ride. And we had a blast – minus the part where our helicopter almost dropped out of the sky.

And since we had just gotten married, we didn’t even realize this would be “our thing.”

 

Case Study 2: Every other vacation for years

We went to Europe, New York, California, Florida, North Carolina… Every where we traveled to, rain followed.

And by rain, I mean torrential downpour and/or hurricanes.

Then, we started to notice a trend.

 

Case Study 3: The birth of K

Let’s just say it was called the “Snowpacalypse” and the Super Bowl sucked. For the full labor-inducing story, go here.

 

Case Study 3: The birth of M

I know you’re thinking, “You had a baby in a ‘Snowpacalypse’. Surely the next time was drama-free.” You are wrong, my friend. This one was called “Icemageddon.” And you can read the whole shindig here.

 

Case study 4: We built a house

We were ready for a real commitment, and the next level of home ownership: We decided to build a house.

And this happened:

When we moved in, we had the “fourth highest snow total for the month of March in Dallas-Fort Worth area, with 3.4 inches recorded at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport; another tenth of an inch was recorded early Thursday morning, putting the official total at 3.5 inches.”

Sigh. I can’t even make this stuff up.

So, if you need freakish weather, call us.

Snow on a hill in our backyard. There may be sledding in our immediate future.
Snow on a hill in our backyard the weekend we moved in.

Stay At Work Mom’s Apps to Keep You Sane During the Holidays

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Work. Travel. Shopping. Baking. Juggling Schedules: These are all things the Stay At Work Mom experiences during the holidays.

The struggle is real. But these apps will keep your life a little more sane and a little more organized so you can spend time on the things you really want.

Food Mom

1. Allrecipes

This app has saved my life on more than one occasion – my mother-in-law asks me to bring XX to the family get together… I need a quick dessert for a neighbors holiday party. The ratings are usually pretty accurate. Plus, it makes deciding on dinner simple when you’re on the way home from the office.

2. Pepperplate

Everyone has family recipes that they want to keep handy. Pepperplate helps you organize all your recipes that aren’t online, and save the rest of your favorites from online sources. I’ve even added my entertaining recipe lineup from my favorite cookbook, Baked. Hint: It’s not an app, but they have awesome recipes for entertaining.

 

Travel Mom

3. TripCase

All your travel plans in one app. Every avid traveler knows to use this app. And if you’re juggling kids, luggage, snacks, etc., it’ll keep you sane. There’s also a version for your Apple Watch that lets you get your updates without ever picking up your phone.

4. Routehappy

Do you need to stay connected on the road? Routehappy can do just that. Instead of listing flights just by price, they are listed by Wi-Fi quality, device charging options and roomy seats – all the amenities a Stay At Work Mom needs.

 

Work Mom

5. CubeFree

If your family holiday is a little like Christmas Vacation, and you need to get away to get some work done, check out CubeFree. It’ll show you quiet and connected places in your area, including cafes and co-working spaces. The ratings are great too.

6. Trello

This one is for the Type A Stay At Work Moms out there. Trello will keep all your projects – work or home – organized. You can also include your colleagues or spouse on projects and assign tasks.

7. Wunderlist

Do you get a thousand texts from your spouse or kids asking you to pick up something from the store? Add them to your Wunderlist, and you’ll never get those texts again. You can share lists and tasks with your family to make sure you never forget anything again.

Stay At Work Mom’s 2015 Holiday Gift Giving Guide!!!

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I have the luck of having my birthday in November, followed by M’s birthday a few weeks before Christmas, then Christmas. So our birthday/Christmas wish-listing and shopping starts early.

Like many parents, we try to follow The Four Gift Rule with the kids.

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Along with this, we spend the holidays (and throughout the year), finding creative ways to give back… but that’s for another blog post.

Take a peak at my holiday gift giving guide below.

FOR THE FOOD MOM

Chef Inspired Spiceologist Block – $159.95

I have an obsession with test tube spices, and this one is beautiful!

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FOR THE TECH MOM

Apple Watch with the Antique White Sport Band – $349.00

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I realize I’m Captain Obvious here, but this watch is legit. With the latest upgrades, it keeps track of how much you move – and hopefully gets you moving more too.

 

FOR THE TIRED MOM (OR DAD)

A Deep Tissue Massage – $60-$200

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Let’s be honest. A massage is a great gift for anyone, at any time. Find a great massage therapist in your area and go for it.

 

FOR THE TRAVEL MOM

Tory Burch Minnie Travel Flat – $225.00

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These travel flats fold up nicely in your purse or bag, and will keep your feet happy when heading from the airport to meetings or around town. The come in a variety of colors too.

 

FOR THE KIDS

Joyfolie Emerson Boots – $59.99

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Joyfolie has a great selection for beautiful clothes, boots, shoes and accessories for little girls. It’s sugar and spice and everything nice.

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Goodnight Books – $9.95

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I tend to pick these up in the airport when I’m traveling, but they are available at any bookstore. The kids love Goodnight Books. They have them for states, major cities, mom and dad, etc. They are perfect for your toddler or preschooler.

Sleeves Up. Hearts Open. All In. Hurricane Katrina: 10 Years Later

On anniversaries of national-scale events, people always talk about where they were, what was going on in their lives. Today is the same.

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina made landfall and changed the Gulf Coast as we knew it. As a North Texan, we watched with tears in our eyes as homes and people were swept away by the storm. We took in those who were left with nothing – many never went back.

Photo Credit: money.howstuffworks.com
Photo Credit: money.howstuffworks.com

When it happened, I was visiting my dad in Raleigh, NC. He was the regional VP for the American Red Cross at the time. As you can imagine, he was busy coordinating help for the disaster.

Both of my parents have been avid volunteers. It’s been ingrained in my existence. They always made me feel like I could save the world; and it’s my duty to give back for all the wonderful things I’ve had in life. They’ve always been right.

So, I rolled my sleeves up, opened my heart, jumped in and took calls from those who wanted to help or needed help.

It was before the days of disaster operations via social media, otherwise I would have been tweeting with the best of them. But, in some small way, I had the privilege of helping to make a difference.

The funny thing is: A decade later, I work for a nonprofit. I’ve never been able to get “doing good” out of my system.

It’s something I hope to instill in my children. It’s not always the big things, sometimes the small things can make a difference in people’s lives.

Kindness with no expectation of reciprocation is the best gift. Always.

—–

I’d like to share a post from a friend of mine and Red Crosser, Anita Foster, as she remembers Hurricane Katrina. Much has changed, and we have much to look forward to.

5 Tips To Carry-On Travel

When I travel, I make it a goal to only bring a carry on and my computer bag.

No, really.

I hate checking luggage… I don’t want to wait on my bag after a long flight. I know how it will be cared for if it’s in my possession.

I’ve been to Europe, the Carribean and dozens of cities with my carry on. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few things that make packing and traveling light simple. So, I’ll pass them along to you.

1. Choose luggage with flair.
My carry on is a bright purple bag with four wheels. It’s seen better days, but is still simple to maneuver through airports, cabs and down the street. No one would ever confuse it with their bag (or let’s be honest, want to steal it).

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2. If the hotel provides it, don’t bring it.
Shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, hair dryer… If you stay at a decent hotel, the hotel stuff is just fine. I do bring my travel toothbrush and flat iron, but the rest I can make do with what the hotel offers.

3. Bring just enough to get you by.
No one will notice if you wear the same pants twice. Start with everything you “think” you need. Cut it in half. Then, mix and match. Also, one jacket will do.

4. It’s the roll. Learn it.
And she’s right. Use your dusters too.

5. You really don’t need all those shoes… Really.
Just like No. 3, think versatile. I usually pack two shoes: one casual (like my TOMS) and one dressy (like a black pair of pumps or the new Tory Burch travel flats).

Remember this doesn’t include what came on your feet! And that pair is most often an in-between and the bulkiest.

What are your tips for packing light?

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Full disclaimer: if we’re traveling with the kiddos, we check. We have to check car seats anyway… So we might as well bring as little as possible on the plane – like some snacks, an iPad and a couple small (quiet) toys.

It’s never as good as the first time… unless it’s someone else’s first time.

You know the feeling of something new: your pulse races… your adrenaline picks up… you are nervous and excited all at the same time.

Well, that happened.

My colleague and good friend and I were on our way back from Miami after a fantastic conference. When I got to my seat on the plane, I noticed a woman clutching the arm rest and clearly nervous. I said, “Hi! How’s it going?”

“Not so well,” she responded. “It’s my first flight. Ever.”

And she was flying alone.

I’ve been on planes since I was a baby – flying alone since I was a kid – so planes are not a new thing by any means.

I don’t even remember my first flight, or even the first flight alone. So, to experience it through someone else was fun. And honestly, I thought, “If she was my mom, I’d want a stranger to take care of her.”

So, we did.

The thing I love about traveling is new experiences and new people – hearing their story, about their passions and cultures. People tend to open up more than in every day interactions. It’s a different kind of connection.

We realized, the night before, we ate at the exact same restaurant – only a few tables away from each other. We talked about our kids – she had been visiting her son and was headed back home. We gave her all the background on what to expect – takeoff, landing and turbulence… thankfully my friend trained to be a flight attendant before opting for PR.

 

The entire experience was unforgettable. The crew celebrated her first flight by sending out wine, and checked on her throughout the trip. Side note: I’ve flown with a lot of crews, on a lot of airlines, but this American Airlines flight crew was by far the best.

If you ever travel, I encourage you to connect with someone you don’t know. Be genuine and let them in. Life is too short to put on headphones and bury your nose in a book. And while I welcome quiet moments (after all, I’m all for dining alone), welcome new friends too.

At the end, she mentioned that she would remember the flight for the rest of her life.

The truth is – we will too.

The second best meal I’ve ever eaten

I love food – all kinds. I’ll try just about anything at least once. And I’ve been lucky to eat some amazing food from various corners of the world.

Some time, I’ll tell you about the best meal my husband and I ever had. It was in Italy. And it changed our lives. (If you want to cheat, it’s Locanda Cipriani).

The bar was set almost a decade ago. And it was set so high, that no where came close until this summer.

My husband and I typically vacation in Aruba.

We leave the kids with the grandparents. They need a break as much as we do. Plus, they come back fully-sugared and completely played out. We’ll take them to Aruba when they are older. But for now – their vacation itch is easier to satisfy.

Any way, we tried 2 Fools and a Bull this year. And it’s official – it’s the second best meal we’ve ever had. Although part of me wonders if my memory of Locanda Cipriani has grown over the years. But I’m a sucker for risotto, so probably not.

Since I don’t want to plagiarize myself, you can find my original Trip Advisor review here or below.

You know that place that you compare all other restaurants to? Every time you have a good meal, you think, “It’s good, but it’s not XXXX.”

This is that place, and the bar is set high.

We had the privilege of dining here last week. (Granted, we got reservations about four months in advance). Our foodie lives are forever changed.

Some of the courses were things we would never think would be good together – like the avocado and cornish hen appetizer – but together, it made for a delicious and refreshing course to start the meal.

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And the veal ravioli with truffle sauce… when you make your reservations, ask for that. Trust me.

Each course is plated in front of you, and the kitchen is open for browsing, photos or watching in awe as Fred turns out beautiful and equally delicious courses.

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But that’s just the food…

When we arrived, the fools welcomed us into what felt like their home (actually the location used to be a home). Paul kept us laughing through the entire night, and kept the wine flowing like any good host. We felt like good friends over for a dinner party with a comedian as your host.

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They even nailed the details – from the decor on the walls to the chalkboard nameplates.

We loved every minute. We’ll definitely be back.

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I want to hear from you. Tell me about the best meal you’ve ever had.

The day my Fitbit died

I’ve had my Fitbit for about a year now. At first, I refused to challenge friends. After all, getting active should not be about competition. It should be about staying healthy and active, and living the new American dream… That lasted a few minutes.

Then, the challenges began.

First, it was innocent. Let’s compare steps!

Then, it became all out smack-talking – which included a little bit of not updating the tracker until everyone else went to sleep. Then, time zones became another issue (I tend to go to bed early, so my steps are done early too).

But when I was in Chicago, my Fitbit band broke… the week before SXSW. For those of you not familiar: SXSW is a interactive, film and music festival in Austin, Texas every spring. Around 30,000 people come from across the world to partake in the sessions, networking, concerts and parties. Since there are typically not that many people in Austin – I think ever – you walk. And I mean tens-of-thousands of steps each day.

So, the week before SXSW, I sent a frantic tweet to Fitbit to ask about getting a replacement band. They kindly replied and replaced it. But it arrived after I had made the trek down south for the weekend.

All those steps, lost.

I learned a valuable lesson that week: If your Fitbit isn’t working, the steps never happened.

 

I mention this because now it’s really broke. #nohope

Why I should never be charged with saving the world

My husband and I went to go see Terminator Genisys last weekend. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet (or don’t want to), here’s the non-spoiler recap: John Connor sends his right-hand man, Kyle Reese back in time to save his mom, Sarah Connor. Oh, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is back… in the “I’ll be back” kind of way…. but older.

The end.

Now you can impress your husband by understanding the plot line without seeing the movie. Or maybe you can convince someone you saw the movie – without giving away the details for non-movie-watching conversation participants, of course.

I digress.

During the climax, Kyle and Sarah are running around Skynet trying to save the world, and I have a sudden and strong realization: I should never be charged with saving the world.

The reason may surprise you.

  1. I could probably handle a gun, knife or some kind of clever weapon from the future. After all, I tend to be pretty tech-savvy (I’m usually the one setting up our surround sound at home, or fixing computers when they break).
  2. I took self-defense in college, which totally counts toward badass status.
  3. I can pull off a black tank top and black cargo pants. The color definitely makes me look a little more like “sun-kissed” tanned than “ghost-white.” And let’s be honest – in Texas summers, we live in tank tops. So the natural, “girls saves the world” uniform, is covered.
  4. I can totally get down to “Save the World” by Swedish House Mafia. And I can imagine myself doing so while dancing under the strobe lights. I realize it’s less relevant, but it totally counts.
  5. I’d love to think I can handle a major crisis while calm and efficient – both very important in this sort of thing.

The thing is – I am directionally challenged.

It’s true. If I can’t Waze it, don’t count on me coming.

I travel some for work. When I do, I always make sure I have enough of a phone charge to make sure I can get wherever I’m going and back. I also take a photo of my car in a parking garage and the sign that says exactly where my car is.

When I’m trying to get somewhere within a building, I wonder aimlessly until someone takes pity on me and gives me directions. I get anxiety about it – my pulse picks up and I grit my teeth.

But, I realize you may not believe me, so there’s this:

Hubs even has a name for me: Wrong way birdie. I pretend he’s being endearing, but it’s true.

The day after the movie, hubs, the kids and I venture out to get the kids’ haircuts. Ironically, one of our favorite sushi restaurants is opening a new location in the very same complex.

I think it’s a sign. We should eat more sushi.

So in my excitement and with a few minutes to burn, we decided to drive by for a sneak peek. I turned onto the street in front of the restaurant and ogled the construction as we went by.

Then my husband said it: “Um… you’re going down a one way street – the wrong way.”

Damn.

I pull up to the stop sign to turn (the right way), but there’s a cop… and he’s spotted me.

Five minutes later after some razzing from both the cop and my husband, I’m allowed to leave – this time, without a ticket.

So that’s it.

If the zombie apocalypse is going to happen, don’t call me. Because I won’t make it, and I won’t save the world.

For your listening pleasure:

#sorrynotsorry

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