Down with Valentine’s Day – Up with Love

Few holidays are more contrived than the annual Commercialization d’Amore known as Valentine’s Day.  I wonder if martyred St. Valentine himself also the patron Saint of Beekeepers and Epilepsy, who knew?  would have had second thoughts about marrying those Christians and Roman soldiers forbidden martial bliss, had he known that centuries later his name would be attached to a day of obligatory cheap chocolates, cheesy baubles, and forced sentimentality.

Does it sound like I’m down on love?

Not. At. All.

In fact, I’m quite the hopeless romantic, prone to bouts of bad poetry and rambling love letters. Sonnet? I’m on it. (see, it’s pretty bad)

So what is my beef? Why am I again up on my well-worn soapbox? Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with receiving my annual cheap chocolate. Yes, I get it too ladies. What got me was watching a package on ABC World News last night (in 2014) in which the Roving Reporter slogged through the slick, soggy, icy and quite frankly, dangerous streets of Manhattan to deliver a ginormous bouquet of roses. 

In the piece our valiant delivery guy hands over they flora to the beaming woman, exclaiming, “Someone loves you. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

The door closes and the story goes on to chronicle the many Florists on the East Coast dealing with the dilemma of making deliveries in time for Valentine’s Day amid the storm’s aftermath. This story followed a feature on the treacherous conditions caused by the storm that had ravaged a swath of the country ranging from the South to the North East. saint valentine

I’m currently living through what the storm dumped, and I’ve gotta tell ya it was a nasty bugger.

The takeaway here folks was essentially this,  if the overpriced flowers, cheap chocolates, environmentally dangerous Mylar balloons and/or cheesy stuffed animals don’t get delivered ON or before February 14th, YOUR LOVE IS INVALID.  

Who cares about the safety of those delivering said “love”, or those who might love them… get the damn flowers there on time or my relationship is a sham!

My challenge to you is a boycott of this type of Valentine’s Day in favor of honoring True Love (yes, I said that in my best Princess Bride voice-over)

Do something from the heart, do it today. Maybe then also support those LOCAL Florists (ugh, one more box of mail-order sad looking flowers and I’m going to find a goat to feed them to) on a random Tuesday for no reason other than you love her/him and you want them to know it. 

Here are a few ideas for a NON-Commercialization D’Amore, that just might help you… um… score. wink

  • Write a love letter
  • Take care of the one chore they hate doing most
  • Make a meal, with your own two hands (seriously it’s not that hard there are a TON of blogs out there with simple recipes. Or heck, pop for one of those meal delivery kits. 
  • Rent -or stream- a classic flick that you both dig. Get some wine, snacks and act like you’re in high school all over again. Only without the insecurity and bad skin, ya know.
  • Go with the bad poetry, it works.
  • Play a game of Twister and do shots. You’re over 21, doesn’t mean you have to act like it. Let go, have fun!
  • Plan a getaway together. When you do that it allows you both to find things you each want to do and takes away some of that pressure to make it “perfect”.
  • Make a “mixtape”. Spotify is great for this. Put together songs that mean something to the both of you and then… DANCE!

Who needs Valentine’s Day anyway? Up with love every damn day!

note: this is a post first written in 2014 and now updated for 2019, meaning I pretty much just changed graphics because it’s still snow and also this shit is timeless advice, yo! 

 

 

Kimpton Mason & Rook DC: Review

Come to DC for the Smithsonian, the tidal basin, and history. Stay a little longer to get the true feel of a city as complex as the political ideologies that built it. 

DC’s Logan Circle is an area in flux. Gentrification has arrived but has yet to rob this enclave of all of its charm and mildly edgy personality.  Seems fitting that Kimpton hotels, known for their eclectic cool, have moved into the neighborhood offering up vintage style and artistic expression at; Kimpton Mason & Rook.  

An unassuming, almost austere, exterior hides a beautifully curated interior that echoes the days of Don Draper and mid-century design. Earth tones, abstract art and a to-die-for sofa dominate the lobby. A nightly free wine reception completes the Man Men vibe. 

Rooms are appointed with small details and custom experiences. Want non-feathered, yet soft and fluffy pillows? They’ll be sure you have exactly what you need to rest your best. 

One touch that struck me was the lack of copious amounts of tiny bottles of toiletries.  Hello, green travel! They’ve opted for full-sized containers in the shower or near the amazing tub. Why is that a big deal? Just think about it. Most hotels have a minimum of five small bottles of assorted products in them. Use a bit (or none) and the next thing you know, it ends up in the trash, and eventually in a landfill somewhere.  Good on ya, Kimpton. 

The mini-bar is stocked with actual healthy snacks in addition to the junk and it’s priced at not so bank-breaking rates. Sneaking off for a grown-ups getaway?  Um, there is a treat in that mini-bar that is perfect for couples. (wink, wink) 

“Living Room” area of the Premier Spa Suite we stayed in during our Kimpton Mason & Rook Staycation

Mason &  Rook goes out of its way to support artists and makers. Borrow one of their Shinola bicycles (shout out to Detroit) and peddle down to the Australian embassy a few blocks away to say,  G’day.  Talk the concierge into telling you their favorite places to hang out. That’s how we were introduced to Studio Theatre. 

As far as makers go, Sarah Rosner head Mixologist at Radiator the on-site eatery, is whipping up can’t-be-missed art in the bar. Her take on a Seelbach graced the pages of Imbibe and is just the beginning of the alchemy she is capable of.  Go have a drink with her, you won’t regret it! 

As for Radiator itself, I’d skip it. Logan Circle has any number of options that are more creative and flavorful. Stroll down a block or two and have some Ethiopian or swing into our favorite brunch spot in all of DC (maybe all of the East Coast) Le Diplomate.  Yes, it’s a chain and in most cases, I’m fundamentally opposed to these, but they won me over with their Café Vietnamese and eggs vol en vent. 

DC is a town where polls outnumber pools. Swimming spots are few and far between and those hotels that do have outdoor pools tend to be much on the anticlimactic side. Mason & Rook’s rooftop pool has a reputation for being one of the best in town. I’ve yet to experience this but plan to rectify that this summer.

Kimpton Mason & Rook Top Tip

Be sure that you’ve signed up for Kimpton Hotels rewards program. This isn’t one of those wait-till-you-have-fifty-stays-before-you-get-a-reward programs. With your very first stay you can take advantage of their Raid The Bar reward offered to Kimpton Karma members.  

The vintage design of Kimpton Mason & Rook DC is befitting of this city that plays home to so much history.

Having taken up the practice of yoga recently, I really appreciated the addition of a yoga mat in our room. It rounded out the personal attention and attentiveness that I believe truly makes this hotel a perfect destination for enjoying both this unique neighborhood and the city itself.  

Managing Kids Tech At Any Age

How many gadgets and connected devices are currently wrapped under your tree or secreted away in some hiding spot far from prying eyes? You likely spent months researching, vetting, shopping, and budgeting for those treasures. But, how much time have you put into thinking about managing kids tech? 

I’ve been in this parenting game for a while now. When my oldest first started asking for tech gifts, I think an iPod shuffle topped his wish list. Yes, I’m THAT old. 

This year my youngest asked for a smartphone that costs more than a few car payments.  With two kids still at home and one in college all wanting tech that I’m responsible for researching, vetting, and budgeting for, managing my kids’ tech has become a big part of this parenting gig for my husband and me. 

Oddly enough there isn’t a really big difference between how the 20-year-old and the 12-year-old use technology. Yes, they all want the latest and greatest phone. Gaming is big, YouTube is bigger. Then there is school. While the conent is varied the platforms aren’t so much. 

My two middle schoolers are lucky to attend a school that has fully integrated tech using tools like Google classroom, Chromebooks, and a cutting-edge tech lab.  The college student takes a number of her labs online. We travel quite a bit so the tech comes along there. Then they’ve got their earned screentime. In our family technology is a part of just about everything we do. 

So, how do my husband and I manage kids technology when there is so much to manage? We have four rules. 

Rule 1: Talk About It 

As the saying goes… with great power comes great responsibility.  Talking to our kids about the responsibility of using tech is huge. We openly talk about how one should conduct themselves online. What any of us, child or not, does online, lives online. It is important that the kids know that. 

We do a have some disconnect when it comes to what is appropriate in our book and what they think they’re ready for. When those impasses come, I have been known to pull the parent card. Yes, parents are and should be the final authority. As I tell our kiddos; until you pay the bill I make the rules. 

Rule 2: Respect The Tech

Respect the tech, it’s kind of my tagline. Taglines are kind of my thing. I employ them as a means of getting my point across. Plus, they’ve got the added bonus of annoying the crap out of my kids.  It’s like that one ad that gets under your skin, you don’t forget it because it gets you! The goal with this particular tagline is that our kids respect not just the value of their devices but the privilege that they have in owning and using them. 

We’ve invested in insurance for each one of their devices. If they break one (like my 14-year-old who is on his 4th phone!) they have to help pay the deductible for getting that item repaired or replaced. They don’t call it paying respect for nothin’, my friends! 

Rule 3: Not Everyone Is Your Friend

Oh boy, that is a hard one. When I was a kid it was easier to know who your friends were. You went to school with them, hung out after school, spent time in their physical presence.

In this digital world, it isn’t easy to really know someone and apps like Mama Bear (which is installed on all of their devices) can’t do the job all by themselves. Part of managing kid’s tech these days means helping them to be savvy about who they meet online.

One of our biggest bones of contention is getting the kids to understand what YouTubers and Instagramers actually are -professional content creators. That’s not a bad thing, but we want the kids to know that content is curated. 

Most importantly though, we want them to know that we’re here for them. That they need to talk to us about their online lives because that is life too. This topic often brings us back to Rule 1. 

Rule 4: Unplug 

This rule is probably the hardest for me. I admittedly have a problem unplugging. For a while, I would tell myself that I needed my phone or DSLR along for the hike, trip, play, fill in the blank with whatever was going on that day because I was recording and chronicling our experiences as a family. What I was actually doing was missing out on them. My kids were behind the creation of this rule. They did it for and because of me. Of course, I now get to wield it over them as well.  I may have just won parenting right there.

Here is the thing, unplugging is vital for their mental and physical health. Being away from technology helps to develop social and problem-solving skills. Thinking about the long road trips my family took when I was a kid when all we had to do was talk to, play with, and yes, fight with each other, those are some of my best memories of my childhood. They helped shape so much of who I am.  I fear my kids may miss out on that. 

In the big picture, this rule may be the most important rule for managing kid’s tech… know when to take it away. 

As a brand partner of Verizon, through their VZParent initiative, I’m happy that I’ve learned that there are a ton of tools out there to help parents manage family technology across all age groups.  Learning about their unlimited data plans for families may have saved our home… hello, FOUR KIDS USING DATA! But the resources don’t stop at customizable data plans. 

Family Locator is a great tool.  The two kiddos we still have at home are involved in sports, spending time with friends and seem to never be where they say they’ll be when you agreed to be there to get them! This nifty Verizon feature allows literally see where they are on the map. It also helps us to schedule by reminding us where we need to be for all those activities that keep my husband and me constantly on the go. 

Our kids are older now. One is even fully grown… chronologically speaking. The days of wondering when they’re ready for a phone, what type of tech is good for their age range are behind us. But, Verizon Family has some great tools for helping parents with younger kids answer those big questions. With that in mind, I had to share this great video featuring the adorable kids of one of my fellow VZParents. If you have littles, you’ll relate to this!

If you have questions about managing kid’s tech, reach out. Leave a comment, search #VZParent on any social media platform. Let’s use tech to support each other because this parenting gig is tough and who couldn’t use some help? 

 

12 Days of Vacay: Off The Grid Getaways

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, maybe as my kids all made it past or into their teens, but somewhere along the line, I stopped wanting things as gifts. Maybe it has something to do with facing what it means to have an empty nest. Or perhaps the roots are in knowing that we have all the things we can possibly need. Either way, I find myself more and more wanting experiences above all else. That brings me to the idea of off the grid getaways. 

I’ll admit that a scant few years ago I couldn’t imagine the thought of staying anywhere where there wasn’t a good internet connection. Then I found myself in Jamacia at a magical oasis called Jake’s Treasure Beach. I was there by myself to write a piece on the food and culture of Jamaica, two things that often get overlooked or watered down by the plethora of all-inclusive resorts on the island. 

Without a reliable internet connection, and with no other people to entertain, I was able to truly immerse myself in this magical place of richness and contradiction. That trip sparked several more that involved little if any internet connection. Hikes into the hills and valleys of the Smokey Mountains. Quiet cabins in the woods. A serene farmhouse on the water in southern Maryland. Those trips, in turn, inspired research into what is available out there in off the grid getaways. Here are some that I long to explore! 

Don’t Call Me I’m in Alaska

Sheldon Chalet is so picturesque I feel like I could just walk into photos of the place and get lost forever. 10 miles from the summit of Denali, America’s highest mountain,  this stay is about as far away as far away gets. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Aurora season is in full glory – and will be through April 21. #ExperienceGrand #Aurora #glow Thanks to Dr. Steve Menaker for this fantastic photo!

A post shared by Sheldon Chalet (@sheldonchalet) on

Sand In My Hair, Don’t Care

The Sheyshells are a place I’ve always longed to be. Pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, greenery so lush as to hurt the eyes, it sounds like a tropical state of bliss. Then there are the Outer Islands. Remote, disconnected from it all, transformative in a way that only quiet can give. 

A small dot of sand in an azure expanse, sigh. Alphonse Island looks like something written into life by Lord Byron. 

photo credit alphonse-island.com

 

Closer To Home But So Far Away From It All

I first found this place when a friend of a friend mentioned it in a Facebook group. My first thought? Oh boy, someone converted a dang storage container into a “hotel” and now they’re charging people to stay there. Geez! 

Then I thought about it. About being just a short drive away from the hustle and bustle of DC life but so far away from it too. It isn’t about bespoke accommodation or having all the amenities that aren’t wired. It is about being with yourself. Being in nature. Letting yourself just be.  That’s kind of exactly what Getaway House is. 

Have you ever taken an off the grid getaway? Dish! I’d love to hear all about it and maybe even add it to this post. Funny thing to ask online for places to go to be off line, huh? 

 

 

12 Days of Vacays: Luxury Private Boating in Lanai, Hawaii

What do you get the person who has everything? Or the person who doesn’t really ever like anything you pick out.  Let’s face it, you could spend endless hours trying to hunt down the perfect gift and still end up striking out. My epic gifting fails were the inspiration for a new series of posts; 12 Days of Vacays. Because everyone wants one of those! 

12 Days of Vacays: Luxury Private Boating in Lanai, Hawaii 

Sure, Hawaii is going to make it onto just about any list of places people want to visit. But honestly, do you really want to elbow your way onto the same beach as every other person and their umbrella? I certainly don’t. 

Now, skipping across the waves onboard a 45’ high-speed luxury fishing boat captained by local … that I can get into! Did I mention that your base camp will be a Four Seasons resort that happens to be nestled on one of the last unspoiled islands in Hawaii? Yeah, that too. 

Four Seasons Resort Lanai is nearly as close to having your own private island as most of us will ever get. It also pretty much an adventure seekers dream. Ride horses, scuba dive, go off-roading, explore local lore, golf, mountain bike, or get on that boat! 

Here is what the Four Seasons folk have to say about their new pride and joy. 

The Lanai V is a 45-foot center-console, tunnel-hull boat designed and built by INSETTA Boatworks, a family-owned company located in Georgia known for marrying high-quality materials and stellar craftsmanship to create top-of-the-line boats. The design was intended to bridge the gap between smaller center-console boats and large sport-fish yachts for a more intimate experience that still delivers peak performance, safety and comfort. Cruising speed is
delivered by twin 370 Horsepower Yanmar Diesel Engines. 

All I’m really hearing is,… luxury private boating in Lanai, Hawaii under my tree. 

When you really think about it though, gifting something this memorable make sense. Experiences. Memories. Time. These are things we can’t wrap up but are the best of gifts. 

If you could pick any vacay to give or receive, where would you go and what would you do? 

 

 

Travel. Eat. Drink. Write. REPEAT