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final stretch

December 15, 2017

aloha

This is game time, friends! The kids in are in school 5 more days over here and this is when my list and focus gets tight! Here are some other ideas for those of you who are still shopping-

Tenergy Wireless Beanie Hat– my 13 year old son picked this out- so it’s teen approved. Good reviews.

Wine markers– my MIL gave these to me a couple years ago for my stemless glasses and they are awesome. Great hostess gift too-

Aloha Splash Proof Bags– I saw these in Hawaii and had to get some! You can stow your bathing suit in it after a trip to the beach, or anything else you can think of! Today I have my makeup in it for after the gym. It would make a great beach bag.

Team Santa/Sleigh All Day– my favorite pj company is now making these fun sweatshirts! These are by no means flattering (at least mine isn’t), but it’s the softest material and fun for this time of year – plus I am wearing mine every night when I get home as it’s very comfortable!

Emoji band aids– these will make it into a stocking. Bought mine on amazon.  I think great stocking stuffers for kids are at Walgreens, World Market and amazon!

Mouse in a Box– Our cool local store Knapsack sells these and they have all different versions of this Danish toy. I bought a little matchbox with a ballerina in it for our travel at Thanksgiving. My daughter played with it for HOURS on the plane. Sweet imaginative play. If you are local and have a little one, this is a precious gift!

My friend Amy is a children’s book editor and ALWAYS has great suggestions for books for kids- here is something she sent me-

Books for the kids:
Star Talk by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I saw this at my son’s book fair and think both kids would like it; the blurb sold me too: StarTalk will help answer all of your most pressing questions about our world—from how the brain works to the physics of comic book superheroes. Fun, smart, and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is the perfect guide to everything you ever wanted to know about the universe—and beyond.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions:
Another good bet for silly-curious kids: Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website.
The Football Fanbook: Everything You Need to Become a Gridiron Know-it-All (A Sports Illustrated Kids Book)
For my two football fans. Reviews say this book has obscure, interesting facts, evaluates each team so you can argue who is the “best,” and compares current players to important players from history. Lots of adults reviewed on Amazon saying they learned a lot and bought copies for themselves as well.
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words
How do things work? Where do they come from? What would life be like without them? And what would happen if we opened them up, heated them up, cooled them down, pointed them in a different direction, or pressed this button? In Thing Explainer, Munroe gives us the answers to these questions and so many more. Funny, interesting, and always understandable, this book is for anyone—age 5 to 105—who has ever wondered how things work, and why.

Guinness World Records 2018: Meet our Real-Life Superheroes
My kids LOVE these books and spend hours poring over them. I refused to buy it at the book fair but will surprise my younger one with this at Christmas.

Other fun lists to peruse-

Dinner: A Love Story gift guide– huge fan of her cookbooks!

Living with Landyn- here is her tween girl gift guide but she has many others- just hop around

WHOA- one of the best gift guides for builders and inventors I have seen! You will definitely find something for your kids in the MOM Edit Steam list- watch the video-

Brightly came out with many lists of seasonal and holiday book lists for all ages– I really enjoy their site.

There is always more, but that’s all for now. Hope you all have a great weekend!

 

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kauai and the big island

December 1, 2017
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View from Grand Hyatt, Kauai

Aloha! We just got back from an awesome family trip and friends have been asking for information so I am putting it all here.

It all started with a phone call from Hilton honors offering us a great deal on the big island for 5 nights, 6 days. After I paid a small fee to upgrade to a 2 bedroom condo, I knew this trip was going to happen! Since we were traveling all that way, I decided we should also visit Kauai and am so glad we did.

Starting with Kauai- we flew Denver to Honolulu, then quick flight to Lihue. I rented a car which was key on this island. We decided to stay on the south end as the weather is supposed to be more consistent. We had a room at the Grand Hyatt and fortunately booked a family rate as we had to book two rooms for my family of 5. It basically gives you a break on the second room – (not a huge one, but helpful!) I use a travel agent to give us perks like free breakfast, free appetizers and room upgrade if available. Free breakfast is KEY here. We had a buffet at Tidepools and even though it was free, I tipped everyday and it would have been about $140 every morning. The Grand Hyatt is BIG. We had our fitness trackers and it was 500 steps from parking to our room! Great exercise. The lagoon area is under construction which is a bummer so hopefully that wraps up soon! Pros: great location, loved the trail to Shipwreck rock- go at sunrise!, awesome workout room, Seaview Terrace is stunning- we saw whales while sitting on the terrace. Friendly staff, and on the ocean. Cons: no room wow factor other than the view (we had two Deluxe oceanfront rooms, adjoining), the pool was freezing, like ice cold. They have a lazy river, but you have to pay to rent your tube??

What we did on Kauai: this island overwhelmed me at first! There is sooooo much to do! We spent one day around our hotel and went to the beach right by the Sheraton and Brenneckes. This was a great lunch spot to grab hot dogs for the kids and deli sandwiches for Tom and me. (located downstairs) This beach is a little rocky, however, so be prepared. Luke split his knee open on a rock when the surf came in. Not the best start to our day! We brought snorkel gear before we left and this would be a KEY purchase if you like to snorkel. I bought 2 sets of these but should have bought 3! They were a great for the kids but they don’t have flippers which I would add. Any tour we took, they gave us flippers but nice to have for yourself when you go to beaches on your own. At 5, Brooke didn’t wear the snorkel mask, but just her swimming goggles and flippers and did awesome!

Pack:

sunscreen (much cheaper to bring), Snorkel sets, water shoes for everyone

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Blue Ocean Adventures of Na Pali Coast

We booked a tour with Blue Ocean Adventure Tours – I had followed them on instagram for a year and couldn’t wait! We were supposed to go up the Na Pali coast but the swells were too large and we ended up going south instead. It was BEAUTIFUL. Keep in mind you are on a 25’ Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RIB). RIBs are commonly used by Navy Seals and Coast Guard Rescue. So, it’s a rougher ride than a catamaran. Because of Brooke’s age, they gave her a seat in the back and she was not on the side like the boys were. It was very fast and wet but I liked how we were so close to the water and could jump in quickly when we stopped! There were some bigger boats that we much higher and more of a spectator option. Snorkeling was beautiful. Will brought his GoPro and has beautiful footage of swimming right beside turtles and fish. While Tom and Will were snorkeling, a pod of dolphins swam through and they both had 5 dolphins swim directly below them! Tom said that it was one of the most incredible experiences he has ever had. Our guide said that experience happens only once or twice a year! The ride there was smooth and then the wind changed and was very choppy on the way home- Tom’s back hurt the next day- fyi! I would go with them again up the Na Pali Coast in a heartbeat. If this sounds too crazy, Captain Andy’s was highly referred – especially their sunset cruise!

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We had some awesome places we enjoyed eating-

The Fresh Shave– this is an awesome food truck with delicious shaved ice – we went more than once! Beside this truck was a great find- Roots in Culture– OH my- the fresh catch over soba noodles and the brussel sprouts were soooooo good! We truly wolfed their food down!  – here is a list of other awesome ones!

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Mai Tai’s at Keoki’s Paradise

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So yea, that would be one slice of HULA PIE!

Eating with kids can be hard on a trip, but we loved Keiko’s Paradise by our hotel. We went twice for the happy hour 3-5, great pork sandwiches, fish and chips and of course, HULA PIE. Their mai tais were amazing as well and less at happy hour! Another awesome spot was the Beach House-  you can reserve this on open table. Pictures aren’t enough. One of the most beautiful settings of a restaurant in the world. We went for lunch as we didn’t think the kids would appreciate a $40 dinner meal. It was AWESOME! Right by the restaurant is a beach area where we watched the sunset on our own one night. It’s a straight shot. We also stopped at Kalalea Juice Bar on the way to Hanalei and it was so good. We LOVE acai bowls and tried their original and the King Kong and gobbled them up. If it weren’t so far from our hotel, we would have gone everyday.  If you love acai bowls too- read this article as I now realized there was a great spot RIGHT BY US. We never made it to Duke’s but it’s same owners at Keiko’s and wish we had! In Hanalei, we had to stop at Tahiti Nui– as a Mai Tai lover, I had torn out a small article on the best mai tai in the islands and this was the spot! We came at happy hour and the server told me they probably had already served 60 in the last hour. It’s a small spot and the kids loved their pizza. The movie The Descendants was filmed here as you will see Georgie on their website! (Brooke was sad it wasn’t the other Disney movie Descendants!) We also went to The Dolphin Market and the boys bought fresh sushi rolls from the back market (not to be confused with the side restaurant) – we ate them outside in the misting rain (North Side has much more moisture) and then the boys said “Can we go get another?” It was so fresh, we did it all over again!   Final thought- Lappert’s Ice Cream– YUM!!

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Waimea Canyon

We loved driving up Waimea Canyon– we downloaded the app- Shaka Guide– was definitely worth $5- the guy is a little cheesy but it made us all laugh and I reco driving all the way to the end- that view is worth it.

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View of Hanalei

Driving to Hanalei was STUNNING. The trees, the water, the small roads- it’s still so undeveloped- just can’t say it enough that Kauai is unreal! I follow Kasey Buick on insta and she lives on the north end and wrote a great list years ago of her favorite spots- it’s no longer on her blog but here it is 1. and 2. screenshot on pinterest!

I think I covered Kauai! Let’s move to the Big Island!

This is totally opposite of Kauai- I felt like I was on a planet with all the rock from the volcano! Again, it’s amazing how you drive a one way highway. Not busy, no real traffic what we experienced- just easy!

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Boys paddle boarding at the Hilton, fake waterfall!

We had booked a Hilton Grand Vacation- so we were in Kingsland – in Building 25 which was brand new. We had a great condo with 2 bedrooms. It was all nicely done. The only missing part was we were not on the main Hilton property so you are a bit removed. The first day we parked at the resort (one mile drive) and went to the lagoon area and rented a paddle board. The kids were swimming and paddling right beside large sea turtles. It was great! We had lunch by the lagoon and could see the ocean. After we decided to try Lava Lava Beach Club – which is a super great place right on the water. It was a beautiful scene and I ordered the catch of the day- I definitely had the best dish at the table! The other dishes were average but liked the live music and beach location.

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View from our pool at Kingsland

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Lava Lava Beach Club

The other days we spent exploring the beaches around Waikoloa. We rented boogie boards at Hapuna State Park, and also visited Beach 69 and Beach Holoholokai .

Hapuna was definitely a favorite- we went back twice- not rocky, kids were in the water all day. $10 rentals of boards from the snack shop for the day.

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Mauna Lani hotel- can you see why we stayed after lunch?

We went to lunch at Mauna Lani hotel which was close to us and had a great beach! We walked in like we were staying there and had a good lunch. After, Brooke asked to swim at the pool and we decided to do it! After 2 hours, I was approached poolside by a nice woman who asked for our room number. Our gig was up (I think our hilton towels may have given us away!) She told us we were fine to stay but couldn’t return the next day. This completely embarrassed our oldest child! Oh well- it was fun!

Places we ate: We ate at our condo as we had a full kitchen for all breakfasts and some dinners- other times we tried:

Sansei Sushi– we went between 5:30- 6 to get 25 percent off our bill. Was a good meal.

Juice 101– wish we hadn’t found this on our last day. We had a great acai bowl, and a kids smoothie here. YUM! Service was slow, but nice.

Kohala Burger and Taco– people raved about it but we had under cooked food. Maybe they had an off day?

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Endless Summer Adventures- so awesome

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Endless Summer Adventures, Hawaii

The best experience we had was through Endless Summer Charters– Capt Bryan and Chris were fun and we had the boat to ourselves for 4 hours. We snorkeled a beautiful area and saw tons of dolphins. We would book with him again next trip!

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See those turtles?

On our last day, we headed to Lava Lava Beach Club again because their beach area is known to be where turtles sun themselves. It was true! Easy to spot and easy to swim with them. Unfortunately, Will went to snorkel and stepped on a sharp coral and cut his foot – which is why I would suggest water shoes again for all!

We had many suggestions of great places from friends – and we didn’t head to Volcanoes National Park as there wasn’t active lava flowing to see and it was a long drive. At this point in the vacation, we just wanted to relax and not spend a day in the car. I’m sure there are some very cool places we missed and hope to see on another visit!  Hope this is helpful to all of you who may be traveling there- you lucky ducks!

Special shout out to many friends who gave us tips on these islands- Jim, Misha, Jill, Kim and Courtney Regan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

saturday holiday shopping 2017

November 11, 2017

marlOkay, here goes- more favorites!

Make + Model best boyfriend Lounge Pants– I have these in Gray Marl- and I LOVE them. I gave them to my MIL this summer and she just ordered another pair. These should be on YOUR list.

White +  Warren Cashmere Travel Wrap– this is a total luxury gift but it’s hands down the first thing I pack for when I travel. I have it in black. It’s large and so soft. I bundle it up as a pillow for flights or throw over myself when the plane is cold. At night, I use as a wrap if it’s chilly. I gave this to my mom for Mother’s day a couple years ago and she can’t stop raving. She uses it on her trips too! My daughter wraps her whole body in it and sleeps on the plane! When I get home, I put it in the washer on delicate and hang to dry. 15% off on their site, or locally- Solemates sells this and I bought mine there. When I went on google images for a picture of this, I was flooded with celebrities wearing it – Charlize, Carrie Underwood, Blake Lively, Katherine Heigl… and me!

Holiday Good Natured Soy Candle- I love the smell of Balsam and Cedar. I bought these tins for anyone I want to give a small gift to this season- colorist, hair cut, people I like, etc.

Josie Maran Whipped Argan Body Butter– Living in Colorado, body butters save my skin! I like the citrus scent best. I gave this to my friend Susan last year as a hostess gift and she recently told me she has given it to many friends since.

BP moto leggings– these are by no means high qaulity, but I do appreciate an elastic wasitband during this time of year.  I bought in black and the price is sweet.

Drop Stop– I need this and so does everyone! PS. I love Sharktank.

Rechargeable Vanity Mirror– I realize how this sounds, but whatever! I love mine. Totally does the job as my aging eyes need it. I charge mine maybe once a month and then use daily.

Ideas from my friend Amy-

Soft throw blankets for the kids. My boys are always arguing over using the softest blanket in the family room, so I got them each a plush blanket with a sherpa side for them to cuddle up in. From Costco, but they look similar to these.
Bitters set –  I bought local ones for my husband for his fancy drink-making, but I like the looks of a set like this one.
The kids use their December allowances to choose a gift for others in need, and the World Vision catalog is their favorite. In the past they’ve chosen mosquito nets, soccer balls, fruit trees, and ducks.
Grown-up stocking stuffers:
Tea drops organic sampler set: Tea Drops are organic pressed teas that dissolve in your cup. Comprised of USDA organic tea, spices, and lightly sweetened with raw sugar, Tea Drops can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, just by adding hot water.
Pura Vida bracelets for a cause: The bracelets are pretty and just $5. We have lots of causes we love, so it wasn’t hard to find pretty options for the women in the family. * Amy- I love these! Had them on my list to add to my niece gifts. They are cool!
Swedish dishcloths: I have high hopes that these lovelies will replace gross sponges forever, and am testing them out on my SIL first. 😃
Onion goggles! Is it crazy that this is the thing I’m most excited to give (and I’m asking for some too)? My friend raved about her onion goggles and how wonderfully they work (the day after my temporarily blinded eyes and I suffered through a mountain of onion chopping for chili). They say pale eyes might be more sensitive to the chemicals in onions? Anyway, these are going to look ridiculous but I can’t wait!
Farm to Feet socks: These are the best socks. Soft, durable, and cute patterns. They’re US-made (actually most are made in NC, where I live). We all love them! *Amy- I love the ones you sent me! Saw them sold in our Whole Foods! Buying some more!

gift ideas 2017

November 6, 2017

jblIt’s November! Officially, stores have holiday music playing and I feel it’s more appropriate to post my next set of ideas!

JBL Clip 2 Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker– strong reviews and I’m considering this for my soon-to-be 13 year old. He loves loud music when he showers and this would mean his phone wouldn’t be sitting near the sink in a steamy bathroom!

Of course, it’s always fun to browse Oprah’s Favorite things!

A friend of ours is making the most beautiful walnut cutting boards- @aroughcutwoodworks – check them out! He even can customize to go across a sink or bathtub. I love ours!

Patterned Flannel Sleep pants for my boys- these are great- perfect price point and they love them!

MC2 toys- Brooke told me she must have this! She chose the spy kit but when I searched it, it looks like MC2 is a total collection to go along with a TV show.

Vintage Candy Wrapper Puzzle– I love this! My mom always set out a puzzle over the holidays and we would all work on it a bit in the evenings. It’s a favorite memory of mine around the holidays. Last year I ordered a holiday one that was WAY TOO HARD for our kids and Tom and I had to spend hours completing it alone!!! This year I ordered this one and it has been awesome. If you want kids to do a puzzle, what better way then for it to be candy wrappers! This was 300 pieces, but they also sell it in 500 or 1000.  My kids have completed it 3 times since October. I will order another one in a holiday scene soon.

Just in time for the holidays, a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid comes out this week! Thank you, Jeff Kinney!

Magnatab– kids go crazy for this in my car! I have had to reorder the pen since it is in such demand!

Bicycle Stripper Deck of Cards– I wasn’t sure what Luke meant when he told me he wanted a stripper deck of cards and was relieved to find out what it meant! If your kids love card tricks, this has great ratings.

Criss Angels Magic Kit– We gave this to the kids many years ago and they still love the tricks. It’s a good set.  Another one of Luke’s favorite tricks- Bite Coin.

I can’t give away much more on this since both my parents read my blog, as does my mother-in-law, but I have done my shopping for them too- and happy to share it personally if you want to text or email me!

 

 

 

 

shopping in october for december

October 18, 2017

fingerling-slothYou all knew this was coming! And don’t pretend some of you didn’t email me asking for it.  I hate to be like a store putting out Christmas trees in October- but I like to look ahead and be organized. Here are some ideas I have for the holidays!

For the little kids-

Fingerlings– I would compare this gift to last years Hatchimals. Get them while you can. Love the sloth above! We are sold out around here and I see it’s a limit of one per customer. I was lucky and bought monkeys on FidgetBoy and they are en route. Let’s hope it’s quality! (My friend Amy used this code for 20 % off at Fidget Boy- R7C3E39M5WFN )

Disney Moana SeaShell necklace. Brooke has this already and I love it because it’s made well and she wears it regularly. Great birthdayday gift or holiday.

Little Live Pets– as parents who have crushed our kids souls with no living animals in the house, I am so grateful to this company! We have the bird but Brooke recently saw a hamster at a party and it’s on the list!

Torchy- My Blazin’ Dragon– don’t laugh! I did not want to buy this thing- but it made Brooke’s top wanted gift list last year and Santa had to bring it! Well, this thing is ADORED by all her friends. It’s gone to show and tell and is always what kids want to play with when they are here! Worth it.

For the middles and teens-  Our boys will be 13 and 10 by Christmas and it’s a big shift in the gift department. The stuff they want is PRICEY! So fewer gifts, and more people going in on them!

Scooter- this ain’t no Razor! Luke wanted one of these BADLY for his birthday- so this was his gift. He chose one by Envy– but Madd Gear makes awesome entry ones too- find your local shop and have them ride it before choosing one. We had many choices in the $150 – $200 range and I wouldn’t have known which one he would have liked best. Of course, black on black seems to always work! This ride is SMOOTH- what a difference from those clanky Razors! Locals- we bought ours at The Bearing in Loveland- cool shop.

Zen Sands– fun for their desk or dresser- also a great price point for birthday gift.

Obsidian Fidget spinner– if can handle one more of these in your house- I love this one- it’s mini- a little bigger than a quarter and the obsidian option makes it heavy. It’s great for any age.

As all our kids are masters of selfies, this Neewer Ring Light is pretty incredible. If you photograph anything, it just makes it look better. My son uses his for all his video recordings- fun gift.

3 Foot Stainless Steel Charging Cable– I can honestly stand behind this cable as Will has it in black and it has lasted over 3 months. That would be a new record. I love mine in rose gold! Not sure where all their colors are but maybe they will restock or search company name and find someone else. You do need to buy a separate wall connection. Love the rainbow one they have on there today!

Hopefully this gets you started – and please start sending me anything awesome. I rely on you guys! Happy shopping. If you want to access old gift lists, go to the right panel and drop down under Category- “Gifts” – they should all be there.

 

 

 

cooking with a friend

October 12, 2017

GrilledCodWhiteBeanTomatoPacketsMy neighbor and friend Sarah and I decided to start cooking two meals a week together. I honestly thought this would happen one week and then we’d get too busy or not organized enough to do it again. Well, we are looking at week 6 now and it’s become a really fun habit! We both like to cook and it gives us a chance to talk while getting two meals prepared.

This is how it goes down- one person shops for all the food for two meals and we split the bill. This is so awesome and cuts costs. Normally I only need half a bag of lettuce or two green onions, etc- but this way we split it all and split the cost. We alternate every week. The person shopping chooses the two recipes and texts them to the other to make sure their family will eat it. We cook around 1 pm the day of the first night. This part is great- we catch up while we divide and conquer! I usually grill while Sarah makes a marinade or chops and mixes. If we can’t do it when kids are in school, we divide the recipe and exchange the food around 6 pm! Luckily we live next door! I think my kids are getting used to opening the door to finding Sarah holding a big bowl of rice!

Here are some of my recent favorites- (this is also awesome because I get new recipes from Sarah!)

Mongolian Beef– this marinade was addicting and my family said it was better than PF Changs.

Garlic Smashed Potatoes– I omitted the cheese but Sarah didn’t for her family. YUM!

Grilled Cod, White Bean & Tomato Packets– this was amazing. Sadly, this is more of a dinner party recipe I think as only one of my children would try it. The others, I just cooked the cod in some butter and olive oil and that worked. My oldest son said it was one of the best things I’ve ever made- like restaurant quality. Unfortunately, Tom was out of town and missed it- but making this again for an adult audience.

Pork Tenderloin in Michelle’s marinade – still a slam dunk! Sarah’s family really liked it!

Flank Steak with Chimichurri sauce over rice- I was literally spooning this sauce on it’s own into my mouth! Definitely making this again.  This was the closest recipe I could find to how Sarah makes her sauce. She also adds shallots and doesn’t add the crushed red pepper.

Sticky Ginger Soy Glazed Chicken– WHOA. This recipe came from my friend Juliana and Sarah and I LOVED it! Easy and so tasty! And the noodles– delicious.

Hope you try some of these- I would love new recipes that your family loves!

 

time flies

September 6, 2017

NewDarlings-Away-03-1024x768The kids are back in school, and I feel like the days still fly by!

Here’s what is on my list as of late:

BOOKS! I am back to reading and loving it. Some recent favorites: The Identicals (light read, funny), The Secret She Keeps (couldn’t put it down) and next up is Watch Me Disappear.

GIFTS: It’s my bday next week and I have already received some awesome gifts! You know this makes me think about CHRISTMAS early so I thought I would share! This heritage hose -in  yellow!!- it’s on my front porch and helps me get to my front pots- it’s so lightweight- like — weighs nothing- and is so cheerful and purposeful. Any gardener you know would love this instead of their clunky, heavy, kinking hose.

Away Luggage– this has been on my wishlist for months and my mom and dad just sent me some – can’t wait! Love the built-in charger and the good looks. further support of their bags...

Mahabis – who has these? Tom just ordered me some – I hear they are awesome! As one who loves to wear slippers, I believe I will be a fan.

That’s all for tonight! Hope all is well and you are all enjoying these first back to school days. XO