College Dorm Bound? Pack These Essentials For A Smooth Move

Is your kid college dorm bound?  Pack these essentials for a smooth move…and don’t forget the Kleenix, parents.  This is a bittersweet experience for sure!



My son's surprise dorm room essentials kit put together by his sweet girlfriend and by me. Guilty of placing his face sign there! That was me and he loved the surprise...except for the face poster. LOL!

Two years ago (time flies!)….my son’s surprise dorm room essentials kit put together by his sweet girlfriend and by me. Guilty of placing his face sign there! That was me and he loved the surprise…except for the face poster. LOL!  We discovered that there were still a few items that we didn’t think about so that also inspired this blog post.

Compiled by us, our son’s wish list and the best part…suggestions from other parents who have been there, done that…and then had to go back to the store for dorm stuff that is easy to forget.  Stuff like shower curtain rings (although do check the dorm room to see if the shower has a door and doesn’t need a shower curtain), a power strip, Advil, a lamp…stuff we don’t always think about.  So take a look, print out the lists (I have included several here) and happy college days to your little birdie who is leaving the nest.

And be sure to first consult your child’s roommate to check off who brings what and what can be shared like a mini fridge and microwave.

  1.  Linens for bed & bath – Dorm room beds are specially sized so typical sized fitted sheets won’t fit.  With this in mind and after shopping around and comparing prices, I found the best value to be at the very helpful online college shopping store, Our Campus Market.  The Student Starter Pak is a good value.  starter kitFor $139 we received our box in the design that my son selected…and I listed the contents below.  This is our box that we received…linens box

And here is what came in that box…

2 extra-long flat sheets
2 extra-long fitted sheets
2 standard pillowcases
1 extra-fluffy machine washable pillow
1 extra-long reversible comforter
1 extra-long quilted mattress pad
1 extra-long thermal cotton blanket
2 all-cotton bath towels
2 matching cotton hand towels
2 matching cotton wash cloths

2.  Laundry Basket on Wheels – found ours at Target. My son’s girlfriend, who is starting her sophomore year at ASU (so she has experience) suggested this.  I would not have thought to get him one on wheels to wheel down the dorm hall.  Smart!  You can see the one we bought in the first picture above. Of course, buy laundry detergent and dryer sheets, too.

3.  Grooming essentials – Our Campus Market has nifty grooming sets for both the guys and the girls.  We purchased one for our son called the Nitty Gritty Grooming Collection that includes a ton of stuff like shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, men’s face wash, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouth wash and more. nitty gritIt did cost $59 but it is the perfect set up to get him started.  The box it comes in is super cool and this can be mailed directly to the dorm as a college care kit.  My son liked this a lot.  The girls version, called Primp It Pretty Personal Collection is pictured here and costs the same…girls kit

4.  Our son’s #1 requested item was a coffee maker so he was so happy when he saw one in his surprise pile!

5. For the rest of the needed items, I am sharing this nice succinct list that ASU provided.  Then I will share a more elaborate list that ASU also mailed to us.  First the short list…

asu listASU also sent us these tips, but check with your own college dorm to see the unloading vehicle policies…tips pack

Here is a more detailed list…


  • Backpack
  • Clothing
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Personal hygiene products
  • School supplies
  • Personal property insurance

Home Supplies

  • Bedding linen/pillow (XL twin, regular twin or full size, depending on room style)
  • Can opener
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Dishes and silverware
  • Hangers
  • Iron/small ironing board
  • Laundry basket/supplies
  • Rug/carpet/bath mat
  • Shower caddy
  • Study/reading lamp
  • Light bulbs
  • Trash can (depending on room amenities)
  • Towels/shower shoes
  • Toilet paper
  • Shower curtain
  • Mirror


  • Alarm clock
  • Extension cord/power strip
  • Cell phone/charger
  • Computer
  • Ethernet cables (20-25 feet)
  • Batteries
  • Stereo
  • TV/DVD/BLU-Ray Player

And last but not least, stuff my gal pals told me that I hadn’t thought of…

*1st Aid Kit complete with Advil and Tylenol and a thermometer.  Two of my mom friends told me that they added first-aid cold meds, cotton balls, Q-tips, Cortizone, Pepto, bandages and Caladryl.  I am also putting in bug spray wipes called Bug Band Towelettes that are conveniently packaged from Bug Band.

*One of these Moms also told me that she had to return to the store to get forgotten items that included light bulbs, a lock for a personal cabinet that the dorm provides, an ether net cable for the TV and a basketball.  Love that she told me this about more needed items for her son.

Ok, parents out there.  What did I forget on these lists?  Did I get it all?  Wishing you a joyful transition…for your soon-to-be college student and for you parents, too!  Two years later, ours has been a really good experience.  I still can’t believe that my son will be a junior in college this fall.  Time truly flies! dorm room pic



Antibiotic Resistant Ear Infection That Landed My Teen In Hospital

If your kid has ear pain, get it checked out right away.  Parents, read our story.  We did everything right and our teen’s ear infection still turned into a 3-day emergency hospital stay.  

Even with our quick & thorough actions, our 16-year-old girl still had to be admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH) for an ear infection that took on a life of its own.

Oh, this picture melts my heart. With her Daddy day 2 in the hospital. Released on day 3.

Here is our story along with a few nuggets of knowledge that I learned along the way.  Helpful to know in case you ever find yourself in a situation with a bug that is proving to be resistant.  Scary.  Unsettling.  Not to be messed with.  And it all started with a simple ear ache.

First and foremost, I must sing the praises of my beloved pediatric practice, TLC Pediatrics.  I must also commend Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH).  What a special place that is!

I will also share how we were able to get $300 eardrops reduced to $30.  That was awesome, especially since we had to buy these ear drops twice in 8 days.

What Happened:


It all started on a Monday when my girl was having ear pain.  She didn’t mention it to me until the next day.

Parents – tell your kid to tell you if they ear pain at the first sign.


Tuesday morning as we prepared to go to the oral surgeon to have her four wisdom teeth removed, she told me that her ear hurt.  THANK GOD she told me.

Parents – tell your kid to always mention if anything feels off the day of wisdom teeth removal or any kind of medical procedure that is scheduled.  Kids need to go into medical procedures healthy and strong. 

The oral surgeon promptly cancelled the procedure the minute I told him that she had ear pain.  So instead of driving to his office, we drove to my daughter’s pediatrician to have her ear checked.  She was diagnosed with swimmer’s ear, which didn’t surprise us since my girl had that two summers ago.  So off we went home with prescription ear drops, which is exactly what worked beautifully last time around.  The ear looked infected, but not too bad at this point.


After a lot of tossing and turning through the night with multiple Advil requests (which I gave her every 4 hours), my daughter alerted me in the morning.  Her ear was really hurting now.  Hurting really bad she told me.  She had quiet tears.

We went right back to her pediatrician.

Our pediatrician couldn’t believe how much worse her ear got overnight!  So now we switched to the very expensive Ciprodex ear drops, which cost nearly $300.  I didn’t care at this point.  I just wanted this infection to die already!  Our wonderful pediatrician handed me the coupon below and told me to call the number on the card to possibly get the price down to $30.  It worked!

Parents – ask your pediatrician if they have coupons for reduced medication prices.

Our doc also told me that she was prescribing oral Cipro because we needed something stronger than Amoxicillin since the infection evolved so much overnight.  Cipro is very strong with some potential side effects that could be worrisome.  We discussed this and we both agreed that a drug this strong was needed.  An ear infection is too close to the brain for comfort so I did exactly what the doc told us to do.  She is an excellent doctor and I trust her 100%.

Both meds were started along with alternating Advil and Tylenol around the clock.  We were still having trouble managing the pain, but she did seem better.

An incredibly smart thing my pediatrician did was to require that we come in daily to have her ear checked and to do the ear wick procedure every day.  This procedure allowed the doc to administer the drops using a wick in the ear to ensure that the infection was directly receiving the antibiotic.


Back to our pediatrician for the daily check and the ear looked better.  The worrisome red swelling on the skin directly behind the ear, that our doctor watched so closely, was just about healed.  She did the ear wick procedure again before we left.  That was terrific and we were pleased.

But my Mama bear gut told me to tell the doctor that I was still uncomfortable with my daughter’s level of pain.  That just didn’t feel right to me.

Parents – always listen to what I call that Mama bear gut feeling.  Always go with your gut when it comes to your kid.

So, our doc agreed to give us a prescription for codeine.  She told us that she doesn’t like to give a prescription pain med, but we both could tell that my normally tough teen girl was struggling with a level of pain that was unbelievable.  I felt relief since Tylenol and Advil weren’t doing the trick.  Now we will get some sleep tonight.

We were on the road to recovery.

Or so we thought.

Even with two codeine every four hours, her pain was still really rough.  I just didn’t understand why we couldn’t get her pain managed.  Finally, at 1am she fell into a deep sleep and I, feeling relieved, joined her in slumber.


She woke on Friday morning at 7am and told me that she was pain free. Hooray!

But then around 9am she told me that she was starting to feel a little pain again.  We decided to try one pain pill just to stay ahead of it.  She fell into a deep sleep again and I once again thought we were getting on the other side of this.  I was feeling better that she fell asleep, but I was still puzzled that she was still having pain after three days of aggressive oral and topical antibiotics.  Something didn’t feel right to me so I went back to look at my medication notes.  I decided that I would show these notes to her pediatrician at our check today.

Parents:  When taking care of your sick kid, keep careful notes of exactly what meds and pain medication are given at what time of day and night.

I must remind you again just how awesome it was that our doctor had made daily appointments to check her ear.  Because at noon, when I woke her to take her antibiotic on schedule, just 10 minutes later, she had excruciating pain.  Again.  This puzzled both my daughter and me and we were awfully glad that we were on our way to her doctor for the daily check.

By the time we arrived, just 10 minutes later, her pain had become almost unbearable, so I gave her a second pain pill and let our wonderful nurse, Michelle know that my Mama bear gut was feeling frightened, although I didn’t say this in front of my girl.  The doctor took one look in her ear, called her partner into the room to look and then they told us that they were going to have a quick meeting.  I knew by their expressions that the infection had come raging back.  Again.  Very unsettling as I now knew that this particular organism was indeed resisting antibiotics.

It was unbelievable.  We had done everything right.  We had taken her in at the first sign of an earache.  Our doctor treated it right away.  We returned the very next day when the ear was painful again.  We immediately started a stronger ear drop AND strong oral antibiotics.  We canceled everything, stayed home and kept her in bed.  I was in disbelief that this infection was so stubborn and strong.

Back in the treatment room, the docs soon returned and told us to go straight to the emergency room at Phoenix Children’s Hospital to be admitted.  I felt scared.  I also felt relieved.  Yes, this is exactly what needed to happen next.  Right now.

Friday Afternoon – Sunday Afternoon

At the ER our girl received a CAT scan to check to see if the infection had spread to the bone.  Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH) was so wonderful, letting me stand right there by her side as she slid into the CAT machine.  I stood there wearing the big heavy protective apron while my sweet 16-year-old calmly clutched the stuffed toy chicken they gave her to keep (so sweet) and did exactly what she was told to do.

Time to wait.  As we anxiously waited for the results, I continued to wonder why we weren’t getting admitted and why my super sick girl wasn’t getting any pain meds or antibiotics delivered to her via IV, which is why we were sent to PCH in the first place.  My husband asked me about this, too.  I told him that he read my mind so I called my village.

Parents – it is so good to have a village.  Surround yourselves with a strong village of trusted family, friends and good doctors when you become a parent.

My amazing mother-in-law is so loving, caring, kind and she is a nurse and taught nursing at NMSU.  How lucky we are to have her in our strong village.  I told her my concerns and she advised me to call Michelle, my pediatrician’s nurse (who is also my friend and is part of our village) to discuss this with her.  She also told me that if I was told something different (as the hospital nurse practitioner told us upon arrival that we might be sent home if the CAT was normal) to calmly ask for a second opinion. How right she was with that advice!

Parents – never ever be afraid to ask for a second opinion, especially when it concerns your kid.

Michelle immediately told me to “put on my Mama bear hat” and to question why things weren’t moving as we had been told they would upon our arrival.  She texted me the name of the PCH Ear, Nose & Throat physician who advised us to bring our girl down to be admitted.  I put on my “Mama beat hat” and marched into the ER nurse station area to ask those questions.  Once I shared this PCH doc’s name, I received a quick apology and a fast follow up.

Parents – always write down and have with you doctor names and referrals.  I should have voiced that upon arrival, but I assumed the ER had all of that information from the phone call my pediatrician had made to PCH before we arrived.

We also got the fantastic news that the CAT scan was normal!  Joy!

But my girl was still in so much pain with quiet tears streaming down her face.  It hurt her to be touched and it hurt her to listen to noise.  A stronger pain med was given and she got relief!  OxyContin finally worked.  Finally.  Five days later she was getting significant pain relief.

Then we were admitted.  My daughter received a stronger antibiotic called Unasym, a steroid called Decadron and pain meds through an IV.  Now we were finally on the road to killing this stubborn, persistent and angry organism plaguing her ear.  At last I could catch my Mama breath as we settled into our hospital room.  I would stay with her the entire stay, which ended up being three days and two nights.

What a special place PCH is and I can’t say enough about the kind doctors, nurses, the nice cafeteria that have chefs who cook the food fresh for you while you wait, the nice room, the helpful and welcoming family lounge that was right across from our room.  The hospital iPad that hung on the wall for my daughter to use.  The cool tie dye hospital gown.  How accommodating the hospital is for the parents, too.  Parents are given a wrist band with special security codes and that became my hospital Mama uniform, along with the perfect ballcap I wore.  When I grabbed it at home that morning, I didn’t know that I would wear that the next three days in a children’s hospital!

No makeup and big bags under my tired eyes but this is a happy me in that ballcap cuz we had just been discharged from the hospital.  I wore it the entire hospital stay and it seemed very fitting to do so.

This couch next to my daughter’s hospital bed became my bed for the next two nights.

By the time we were discharged the awesome PCH ear, nose & throat physician came to see us daily with thorough checks and a good follow up plan to take home with us.  Two nights later we went home and my daughter was finally pain free after six long days and nights of constant discomfort and severe pain.

To be sure that this bacterial infection is truly done, my daughter is still taking Augmentin and Cipro ear drops for 3 more days,which amounts to a full 7-day treatment since her hospital release.  We must be sure that 100% of this bacteria has been eradicated.  Her hearing in the healing ear will sound muffled for 30 days, maybe longer, hopefully not.

I am also giving her a probiotic capsule daily to help replenish all of the good bacteria that the antibiotics also kill with the bad ones.  And did you know that folks are now told to not consume dairy when taking antibiotics as it is believed by the professional medical community that dairy can lessen the effectiveness of the antibiotic?  Good knowledge to have.

We returned to PCH for a follow-up visit with the ENT office and she has no permanent hearing loss.  Thankful for that!  I am also so thankful for our on-task pediatrician and for the wonderful Phoenix Children’s Hospital.  I am guessing many of you are wondering what caused this crazy infection.

What Caused This:

The short answer is that we may never know.  But her pediatrician and I have a theory and her doctor thinks this is what happened…

It began as swimmers ear and turned into a strong, resistant bacterial infection that kept reemerging despite strong treatment, both orally and in the infected ear.  It could have been swimming, so we had our pool tested to be sure that we didn’t need to shock our pool.  It checked out fine, thankfully.  And she hasn’t swam a lot this summer because we have been traveling.  So, we brainstormed some more.

Then my daughter mentioned hair dye.

A day before this infection started, she used a temporary hair dye product.  Hair dye in a box that is purchased at the store.  This could have been the culprit.  Her doc and I suspect that perhaps the hair dye box kit that was used had a strain of bacteria in it that became an explosive quick-growing infection in my girl’s ear.  Her doc told me today at her last follow-up visit that she feels pretty sure that this is what happened due to the timing of the infection and the severity of the bug itself.

We are not bashing store bought hair dye.  If you use it, be sure to protect the ears to ensure that the product does not go directly into the ears.  Good to know.

My girl also has been a lover of Q-tips and has been known to over swab.  Perhaps when the bacteria started to infect her ear, the over swabbing decreased the protective wax, which may have made it easier for the bacteria to grow so rapidly.  This may have repeatedly defeated the strong Cipro antibiotics.  How scary is that?!  Thank goodness the infection finally responded to the IV drugs given during the hospital stay.

Whatever the cause, to watch an infection resist the strong Cipro antibiotic (both in oral form and applied in the ear) several times through the week is very unsettling indeed.  I shudder to think how this infection could have even progressed further.

Had we not been so diligent with daily checks with her doc.

Had we not started right off the bat with a strong antibiotic regimen.

Had our girl not told us about her ear pain and proceeded with the wisdom teeth removal!

Had we not moved forward seeing our very good pediatrician daily and then followed her pediatric med team’s game plan to get her admitted to PCH just in time.

Ugh…thank goodness, thank goodness!

Better not to look back, I know.  But I do so I can share our story with you.

Just so other parents know that ear infections can turn very dangerous very quickly.  It is good to be able to share what we learned through this harrowing experience.  Most ear infections won’t evolve like this crazy one did, but just in case…remember this article.  And always go with your parental gut.  Get things checked out and go back and get checked again if things don’t seem right yet.  Sure glad we (us and our pediatrician) stayed on top of it.

It felt like it was us versus this evil ear infection and sometimes the infection kept score and was ahead.  I soon won’t forget this experience.



That word has a whole new meaning to me after this.  To show our gratitude, my girl and I plan to soon volunteer at PCH to give back and to help the tough kids who are still there, along with their tough and weary parents.  Ironically, our son was also admitted to PCH when he was the same age as our girl, at 16 for a biopsy.  PCH was wonderful then and was wonderful again, this time with our girl.

My view from the family lounge that was across from my daughter’s hospital room. A special place.








Why Moving Cars In My Jammies This Morning Filled My Heart

Three different times this morning, I ran out in my nightgown (don’t judge…I did throw a cardigan on!) to move cars.

View from my window. Musical cars movement complete 🙂

This made my heart and my face smile because these cars belong to my daughter’s pals.  The cars were all there because four friends found one common night that they could stay together.

At this Mama’s home.

That doesn’t happen very often anymore because they are 16.  They are busy.  One does dance.  Another plays volleyball.  Yet another does multiple sports.  Mine is in between her beloved and demanding community theatre shows.  All study hard and all do volunteer work in the community, too.

So, when the stars aligned and all schedules cooperated (one couldn’t get here until 1am and I was THRILLED to get her) we hit the jackpot!  And I am the lucky Mama who got to have them here last night.  Lucky lucky me!  I get to see and hug each beloved girl that I have watched grow from little girls to lovely young women.  I got to relax knowing they were here having fun, safe and sound in our home.  I went to sleep peaceful and joyful as they did their thing and visited until the wee hours of the morning.  That is the best during summer break.

When I remembered that the trash truck was coming early this AM, I jumped up picturing my gal’s pals’ cars blocking our very stinky trash bin that needs to be emptied ASAP.  I remembered that the big blue recycling vehicle would also be rolling through.  Yikes.

So, I gently woke each girl and asked for her keys so I could move cars.  It happened again when my hubs had to leave for work.  I like to do my freelance work in the mornings in my jammies (big perk when you work from home), so my nightgown and I started up cars and put them in different places.  With each engine start, my heart filled with a bittersweet smile and sigh.  All too soon these cars and these beloved girls will graduate and go their separate ways.

I believe their bond will continue to endure as my bond has with my own high school gal pals.

These fab four start their junior year in August.  That is the most stressful high school year of all.  The schedules are only going to get busier.  The stress will become more intense with SATs and college apps.  Oh, bless their hearts!  Today’s teens are under so much pressure.

So, when a last-minute sleepover came together last night with cars all around, I rejoiced!  Bring it on, I say.  I don’t care that it is Sunday night.  And it was even more awesome when the 4th musketeer realized she could come when she got back to town at 1am!  Yay!

Love this pic…when the 4th beloved gal pal arrived at 1am! It was a surprise that she got back and could join us. Joyful moment that I caught on camera. Love this pic, love these girls!

Please girls, eat all the food, sleep in, invite the boys to sit out back poolside with you gals at 11pm.  They did just that.  I loved it.  I stayed out of the way, in the background working away as they hung out.

I truly loved every minute of them being here last night and today.

Tomorrow my sweet girl has all four wisdom teeth pulled.  This Mama is not looking forward to that and I especially appreciated that the cherished gal pals wanted to be with her last night before her week turns painful.  Sweet young ladies!

Must they all grow up and leave us Mamas in two short years?  I am told that there is a bright side to the empty nest years.  Freedom, more time with hubs, no more high stress schedules, no more divide and conquer with hubs to be everywhere at once.  A lot less to clean.  Less groceries to cram up the fridge.  Less moody hormones to balance with my own crazy moody hormones under one roof.

And the best part is how exciting it is to see these chickens fly the coop and excel and thrive!  I know how awesome that is as I watch my 20-year-old son right now do his stuff. It is a heartwarming thrill.  The best front row seats I have ever had!

I will love seeing that with my girl, too.

But I will also miss seeing all those cars in the driveway.   Sigh.  I may even miss running around moving cars in my jammies and all!

I will miss my girl and I will miss these girls.  A lot.

So that is why moving multiple cars in my jammies was also moving my heart.  I ran around with random car keys in my hand and a full heart in my chest.

Bittersweet times.  Sure love these girls and these Mamas.

Beauty Box & More Drawing Winner!

Thanks to all who entered this drawing!  Today’s winner gets a pretty wine themed candle holder, a nail polish set and one of my favorite homeopathic remedies that relieves pain and reduces bruising.  Winner is listed below!  She won these awesome items…

One of my favorite products, Boiron Arnicare Cream, is a soothing, unscented homeopathic medicine that combats brusing, neck, back, shoulder and leg pain and swelling from injuries. I just used some this week when I slammed my leg into an open dishwasher (ouch and hate when that happens) and Arnicare helped a lot with pain management, soothing and less bruising!  This is a great remedy to have on hand for those unexpected summertime injuries and for the muscle tension that can happen after a road trip from being at the wheel for so long.

I also love the funny named travel-sized product included called Toe Juice!  I love this product for the dry heels we get wearing flip flops a lot in the summertime.  And this one is travel sized.  Perfect!  Toe Juice is made with DermaVine, which is a blend of plant-based extracts that enhance the skin’s natural repairing ability.  It contains willow bark, lemon peel, and Cinnamonum extracts.

All good stuff, so let’s announce the winner!  (Winner drawn through  The winner is….

Jennifer Gosser from Spicewood, Texas!!!

Congrats Jennifer!  Keep checking my blog everyone as we continue to do more great giveaway drawings!  Happy Monday!

Beauty Box Giveaway Drawing!

It is Freebie Friday today, so that means that we are a doing a drawing for a fab beauty box giveaway!  Many of the items in this week’s prize box are travel-sized, which is perfect for your summer travels.  Also included is a pretty wine themed candle holder, a nail polish set and one of my favorite homeopathic remedies that relieves pain and reduces bruising (more details below). Our winner receives L.A. Colors NUDE 5 Piece Nail Polish & Decor Set with the perfect nude summer shades. It also comes with nail glitter for added summer mani/pedi fun. And one of my favorite products, Boiron Arnicare Cream, which is a soothing, unscented homeopathic medicine that combats brusing, neck, back, shoulder and leg pain and swelling from injuries. I just used some this week when I slammed my leg into an open dishwasher (ouch and hate when that happens) and Arnicare helped a lot with pain management, soothing and less bruising!  This is a great remedy to have on hand for those unexpected summertime injuries and for the muscle tension that can happen after a road trip from being at the wheel for so long.

I also love the funny named travel-sized product included called Toe Juice!   In fact, one of my gal pals commented on my Facebook page that she had tried Toe Juice for dry heels.  I cut and pasted what she wrote….

“I saw Toe Juice yesterday at Walgreens and picked it up on your recommendation because my feet are awful, super dry skin and heel cracks that never seem to get better. This sounds crazy but I used it this morning following my shower and then used the pedi egg and I cannot believe the difference in my feet. I wish I had taken before and after photos! Thanks Rach!”

I love this product for the dry heels we get wearing flip flops a lot in the summertime.  And this one is travel sized.  Perfect!  Toe Juice is made with DermaVine, which is a blend of plant-based extracts that enhance the skin’s natural repairing ability.  It contains willow bark, lemon peel, and Cinnamonum extracts.

As a Mom, I love that this was created by a Dad, who is also a high school science teacher!  I love that this product is all natural and plant-based.  My kids like it, too.  It has become somewhat commonplace around here for one of us to ask where the Toe Juice is being stored.

This is a great prize box!  To enter for your chance to win (winner drawn through simply do this…

*Email your name and address where you want prize sent if you’re drawn to [email protected]

*Do this by this Sunday, June 24th 10pm Phoenix time

*Winner will be drawn through and announced Monday morning on this blog.

Good luck and happy summer days!

Hotel Review in Santa Monica: The Viceroy Hotel

Unique boutique hotel, The Viceroy in Santa Monica, California had me curious.  Last time we stayed in Santa Monica, we totally indulged and spent way too much money at the lovely Shutters on the Beach resort hotel.  That blog post coming soon.  We absolutely loved it, but with one in college now and one headed there soon, we needed to spend less money this time around.  I still craved nice, unique and a little bit fancy, especially since I knew I would blog about our stay.  I went to my AMEX card website and looked at hotel recommendations.  The Viceroy’s website immediately caught my eye, but would the property look as nice as the website pictures?

Picture from the Viceroy Hotel Facebook page

Most often the answer is no.  Read on to see my answer to this.

I really liked what I saw each time I revisited the Viceroy’s website, so I booked us there.  This boutique hotel is situated on the corner of Ocean Blvd. & Pico, just steps from the beach and within walking distance of the Santa Monica Pier.

So, did my instincts pan out that this property would be as nice as advertised online?


My video review is below.  And let me add, the biggest reason that I give this property an almost perfect score is because the staff was truly a team that aim to please their guests.

From the moment we checked in with the super nice, professional, warm and friendly hotel front desk clerk, Acquah Dansoh, we were completely spoiled.  Acquah commented that since we were on a mother & daughter trip and that it was our first time staying at the Viceroy, he wanted to celebrate us so he upgraded us to a full ocean view room at no extra charge!  Nice surprise!  Then he served me a glass of welcome complimentary champagne.  Cheers to that!  I was feeling very at home already.  And the first-class treatment never ended the entire time we were there.  Everyone, the maid, the concierge, Jeremy, the restaurant staff…all were so nice to us and spoiled us each and every day.  When we ordered room service, it was delivered promptly.  The hotel restaurant, Cast served delicious California fare (be sure to try the Charred Brussels Sprouts with sour mustard seeds, wholegrain mustard, manchego and pepitas). The pool area was super cool and the entire property and team have a collective peaceful and joyful vibe.

Photo from Viceroy website.

All seemed to love working there.

Only two complaints.  Parking cost $55 a day…ouch!  But all the hotels located in that area charge as no street parking is allowed.  And we wished the rooms had balconies, but other than that, our stay was absolutely perfect.  Here is our video review…

My Favorite Survival Tool Tip For Parenting Teens

LA here we come.  My teen girl and I are headed to LA once again to check out potential colleges.  She will go off to college in just two short years.  Those years will be short…and we will have some long days.  Long and challenging days are gonna happen when raising teens who are straddling the fine line between kid and adult.

Each year as they approach 18 (and I know as my son is almost 21, so I have lived this once before) we parents have to have faith and let go a little more.  We also have to have boundaries, rules and consequences.  Consequences that are calm and fair.  And when our testy teen gets really testy, we parents must try to forget that we are human and respond in a calm, loving and controlled manner.  Not easy.  Parenting is not for sissies.  And sometimes we parents can’t help but be human and get a little too testy right back with a raised voice or being tempted to give that teen the silent treatment for the next few days as we lick our parental wounds and maybe take their testy teen words personally.  The irony is that these testy teens want to do it all on their own…BUT…they do, almost subconsciously, want limits because they want us to keep them safe.  Sometimes these years can be hard to endure with a hormonal changing teen who is growing up in an uncertain and crazy world.

And good news parents!  I have a wonderful survival tool for parents!  Two in fact!

When I have been pushed to my wit’s end by a testy teen, I first consult with my hubs.  He is so good at using humor combined with limits and consequences when our teens break a rule or tell us a fib.  We first remember that we were not perfect teens ourselves and that these last few years parenting a teenager may be our most defining years as parents.  This is it.  Our last few years to get it as right as we can before we send them off into this crazy world.  This uncertain world sure seems crazier to me since my own teen years back in the 80s.  So back to my tools that my gal pal told me about and these two tools have helped me SO much.  The tools are two very helpful books that not only get my teens…but also get the parent!  I felt so understood as I read these books.  Tools are presented with how to talk calmly to your teen, how to actively listen and translate teen talk and how to really enjoy your kid, while navigating the tricky teen waters.

Arm yourself with these two books…Yes, Your Teen Is CRAZY!  Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind

And…Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? 

Aren’t those great titles?!  And the books are great, too.  Since I started reading them, my girl and I are getting along better.  One thing I had to admit, as I read these books, is that I had to change some of my parenting behavior to better understand what my teen is going through with all of the pressures kids face in today’s world.

Knock on wood as I have been lucky since my kids have stayed out of the trouble, make good grades, work hard and are focused.  But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had some really hard days, too.  The books have given me the tools to help guide both my teen and myself through these incredible years.  And both feature chapters for all kinds of challenges that come with these years.

These years are priceless.  The last few before we become empty nesters.  The last few where our beloved kids live under our roof.  When one leaves, they are so missed and yet I felt myself so excited for my son’s future and his own excitement that those happy emotions for his future eased my sadness of letting him go.

I will do this again in 2020 with her departure.  And I will be a full-fledged empty nester.  That will be tough.  I want to do these last two years right in so many ways.

I feel close to both of my kids.  I left big careers and put my heart and soul into raising them.  And when I worked, I did the same thing as so many parents do to the level of exhaustion.  This is our biggest job in a very scary world.  It is also a world full of opportunity.  It will soon be their world.  As the roots are set and we now finish up the wings, these two books have eased the challenging days that are the normal push and pull of the teens growing up…and the parents letting it happen as safely as possible.

Here’s to raising teenagers.  As the first book I recommended says, these last few years with our kids may be our most defining parenting moments.

I am thankful for my excellent partner in my hubs, my amazing parents and in-laws who are an incredible village to my kids, to my gal pals whose ears and a shared bottle of wine remind me that we are all in this together.  And to these two books and authors.  So awesome to have discovered these helpful books (thanks to my cherished pal, Lizzy for telling me about them).

I have read both and I go back to certain chapters when needed.  Sometimes when I feel like yelling back at my kid, I pick up these books instead.  Almost instantly, I have a better understanding of why my child is so frustrated with whatever the situation is.  I get cool down time by reading the book, time to think about my response or future response…and I discover smoother parenting waters.

Yes, these books have helped me quite a bit. As I am a hard-working Mama with the best intentions to raise the best adults I can.  On most days, I do OK.

And I am human.  And on those days, I grab these books or I remember helpful passages from the parenting pages and move forward with those tips on what to do and what not to do.

So, if you feel like you need a little extra guidance on lovingly parenting your teen in today’s world, check these two gems out.  We are in this together, parents.  You truly won’t believe how fast your child, then preteen and then teen becomes an adult.  What an amazing job we are given helping them find their way there.  My son turns 21 soon.  So hard to believe!  And yet he is still my little boy in my heart.  Two years left to parent my little girl as a teen.  I am cherishing the time.

Hope this helps you, too.  Now I am signing off and am off to LA to make some memories and help my girl plan her future.  Cherished time…and did I mention that I am secretly packing the books?  Just in case I need a quick teen/parenting reference on the road  😉

Dad’s Day Gift Giveaway Winner!!

Thanks to all who entered the drawing for the Dad’s Day!  Father’s Day is coming right up on next Sunday, June 17th and our prizes are fun…Included in the prize pack is the sweet sign (that can be hung or stood upright) that says, “i know a HERO ******i call him DADDY” along with the iHome Drop Splashproof Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with Speakerphone that pairs with his smart device to provide a wireless speaker and speaker phone.  It is splash proof, so it works by the pool (not immersed, though), in the shower and out in the rain.  Plus receive the very nice Olba’s Herbal Remedies Olbas Oil and Olbas Inhaler This is a good massage oil and inhaler that also helps to clear sinuses.  A Father’s Day greeting card is also included.

Now without further ado, let’s announce today’s winner (winner drawn through….

Charly Arthur from Phoenix, AZ!!!

Congrats Charly and thanks for following!

Wishing all a Happy Father’s Day and for those of you that are missing that special dad on that day (and every day) I send you hugs.

Dad’s Day Gifts Giveaway Drawing!

Father’s Day is coming right up on Sunday, June 17th so here is your chance to enter for a chance to win a couple of Father’s Day gifts!  The gift pack is this…Included in the prize pack is the sweet sign (that can be hung or stood upright) that says, “i know a HERO ******i call him DADDY” along with the iHome Drop Splashproof Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with Speakerphone that pairs with his smart device to provide a wireless speaker and speaker phone.  It is splash proof, so it works by the pool (not immersed, though), in the shower and out in the rain.  Plus receive the very nice Olba’s Herbal Remedies Olbas Oil and Olbas Inhaler This is a good massage oil and inhaler that also helps to clear sinuses.  A Father’s Day greeting card is also included.  For your chance to win these four gifts for Dad, simply do this to enter…

  1.  Email your name, email address and address where you want the prize pack sent if you are drawn (winner drawn through
  2.  Email to [email protected] by this Saturday, June 9th (10pm Phoenix time).

We will post the winner’s name on Sunday morning so we can get the prize mailed out first thing on Monday morning, so it is received in time for Dad’s Day.

Good luck!

Fun & Fabulous Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Father’s Day happens on June 17th, so here are some gift ideas that I showed in my segment today on the Your Life Arizona morning showMany are sold at local retailers for good last minute ideas.  I also found some unique ones that can be ordered, so take a look at this now so you have time to get your Dad’s Day shopping done.

Unique Ideas:

*Customize something fun specific to Dad – I ordered this burnt orange T-shirt from Tee Chip for my Texas Longhorn alum hubs.  This shirt says it all and I am excited for him to see it on Father’s Day as I think it is perfect, comfortable, fun and this theme fits him perfectly! 

I ordered this from Tee Chip for $26.95 and I had no issues with the company, but I found a lot of reviews that complained of long shipping delays, so please note that I only ordered from Tee Chip once and had no problems, but others did.  You could do something similar for the father you are shopping for with his alma mater printed like this one with other customized gift companies.  I found a ton of companies that do this kind of stuff online.  Or go to one of the As You Wish locations and create something like this there on a mug, etc.

*Make Dad a customized drink kit – Pair his favorite coffee, tea and/or scotch, whiskey, etc. in a basket and add the HyperChiller(sells at site for $29.99).The HyperChiller turns any beverage into a perfectly cooled drink in one minute without ever touching ice.

Photo of this cool device, that is a perfect Dad’s Day gift is from the HyperChiller website.

With the HyperChiller’s simple multi-chamber design, a beverage is exposed to the equivalent of over 30 large ice cubes.  The drink is then protected by two layers of food grade stainless steel.  This way there’s zero dilution in the process of cooling. Just leave it in your freezer, then take it out, pour your beverage in (coffee, wine, spirits etc.) and the HyperChiller will rapidly chill it in just one minute. This handy device can be used several times in a row.  When done, place back in the freezer to use again later. It’s compatible with all brewing methods and even fits directly into most full-size single cup brew.   

*Make Dad a Manly Spa Basket – Place his favorite soaps, shaving products, a nice bath robe and more in a specialty spa kit for him!  Add slippers, a gift card for a massage, a bottle of wine, healthy herbal teas or a gift card to a spa store.  I kept mine simple, as you can see below…Olba’s Herbal Remedies Olbas Oil and Olbas Inhaler is included in my gift basket for a good massage oil and inhaler that helps to clear sinuses.  The oil is great for massage and I like the Olba brand because it doesn’t smell feminine, making it perfect for Dad.  Olbas originated in Switzerland over 100 years ago and is made with a blend of six essential oils including peppermint oil, wintergreen oil, oil of cloves, juniper oil, eucalyptus oil and cajeput oil.  The Olbas Herbal Remedies Aromatherapy Inhalant and Massage Oil .95 fluid oz bottle sells for $19.95 here.

*Camping Gift Kit – Create a basket with camping items. Pack with his favorite camping essentials and his tried and true camping faves.  Other ideas are…


*Yoshi Copper Grill & Bake Mats ($9.99 for a 2-pack sold at amazon, Walmart, Walgreens) — Give the dad who likes to grill these handy mats that enabling grilling without the food falling through the grate.  Foods still have grill marks, too.  The mats still must be cleaned, but not the grill.  Perfect for the camping gift kit and for an outdoor or cooking/grilling themed gift.

*iHome Drop Splashproof Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with Speakerphone – I paid $24.99 for this at Walgreens, BUT I found it for only $11.99 at so definitely check that site for Dad’s Day gift savings.  That is 50% savings.  This handy contraption pairs with your smart device to provide a wireless speaker and speaker phone.  It is splash proof, so it works by the pool (not immersed, though), in the shower and out in the rain.  A great gift to pair with a camping kit.

*The Mini Fire Fighter product.  I do want to say that I haven’t personally tried this product, so I haven’t tested it myself.  So do keep a fire extinguisher on hand.  Check out what this compact user-friendly aerosol firefighting product does.  It is safe, easy to use and tested to EU and USA standards. Mini Firefighter is an essential safety tool to have around the home, the car, in the caravan, near the BBQ, in the toolbox, on the boat or in fact anywhere there is a risk of a fire.  Mini Firefighter is non-toxic, non-irritant and biodegradable which can be used with care in confined spaces.  It’s high cooling capacity forms a stable, heat resistant seal which suffocates the fire stopping re-ignition and turning fat and oil into a soapy mixture.

Picture from the Mini Firefighter website.

Mini firefighter is also easy to clean up as the foam dissolves after use.  I think all households should have this on hand and it makes for a fun and smart addition to Dad’s Fun Thank You-Do-It all gift basket!  The 8.45 oz can sells for $19.50 here.

Last Minute Easy to Get Gift Ideas

These items are sold at some drug stores, Amazon and other local retailers, so this is stuff that you can grab last minute locally…

*Jumbo Moscow Mule Mug ($10.99 at Walgreens) – Moscow Mule cocktails continue to be all the rage and my husband loves to make these, so I got him this fun jumbo sized one for Dad’s Day!  Pair with the ingredients needed to make a mule and this makes a fun gift basket idea. 

*Crafted Imports Bar Set – ($12.99 at Walgreens) – This is great alone or pair with the fun jumbo Moscow Mule mug.

*I know a HERO**I call him DADDY block sign – ($9.99 at AJ’s Fine Foods) – This sweet red, white, blue and yellow sign is a block that can sit on his desk or can be hung on the wall.  A great one from a child to Daddy.

*Crafted Imports Golf Pens ($9.99 at Walgreens) – Pair this set of three golf club shaped pens with a golf store gift card.  Perfect!

*Why A Daughter Needs A Dad & Why A Son Needs A Dad little mini books – ($5.99 each at AJ’s Fine Foods gift section) – These precious little mini books include passages like, “A daughter needs a dad so she will know what it feels like to be somebody’s favorite.”  The son book includes touching phrases like, “A son needs a dad to let him be his equal now and then.”  These little books melt my heart and I bet they will melt a father’s heart, too.

*Hallmark All Star Grandpa Baseball ($9.99 at Walgreens) – Ten bucks and fun alone or if you want to go big, give this to Grandpa along with tickets to a major league baseball game! 

*Signature Greeting Cards Best Dad Ever with removable koozie – Check stores that sell greeting cards for this fun one that includes a koozie.  Pair with his favorite beer and your gift is all set.  I found this card for $8.99 at Walgreens.

*Grasslands Road I Love That You’re My Dad Frame ($17.99 at AJ’s Fine Foods) – Beautiful ceramic/metal frame that fits a treasured 4 x 6 picture for Dad.  This is a great one for the sentimental Dad or Grandpa who loves photos.

*Hallmark Super Dad Trophy ($9.99 at Walgreens) – Perfect from a kid to a Dad this cute trophy has the father wearing a cape. 

Did I list any ideas that fit the father in your life?  I am wishing all a Happy Dad’s Day.