10 Things to Do in Milan, Italy

milan-italyBuon Giorno, Milan, Italy! Milan’s name has for many centuries been recorded as Mailand, which is still the German name of the city today. It comes from the Celtic Mid-lan (meaning “in the middle of the plain”) and was known as “Mediolanum” by the Romans. An Italian proverb compares the cities of Milan and Rome and roughly translates, “Rome is a voluptuous woman whose gifts are very apparent, while Milan is the shy, demure girl whose treasures are plentiful, but discovered in time.” We all know that Milan is the fashion capital of the world, but did you also know these 10 things?

1. View the Duomo
The Duomo di Milano, one of the most famous buildings in Europe, is a large and elaborate Gothic Cathedral on the main square in the center of Milan. It is the second largest Roman Catholic cathedral after the cathedral of Seville. Note: Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome is not a cathedral. Measuring 157 meters long, the Duomo can host 40,000 people comfortably. The main spire is 109 meters high and the great windows of the choir are the largest in the world.

2. Tune into the Teatro alla Scala
Typically Milanese, the discreet, neo-classical façade of Teatro alla Scala, the world’s most famous opera house, featuring acres of red velvet and gilded balconies. You can tour through this opera house museum during non-performance times.

3. Drink up the coffee culture
Don’t expect to the strong, bitter, pungent taste of Italian espresso in Milan. Milanese tend to drink their coffee quite long, with added water. This is no doubt to help them linger over the amazing array of pastries and cakes that the city has to offer. We highly recommend stopping by Pavé (Via Felice Casati 27), where you get the both of both world – delicious coffee and homemade sweet treats.

4. Be inspired by The Last Supper
In the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, you can see one of the most famous paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper. Tickets must be reserved months in advance, so as soon as you book your plane or train tickets, you better purchase these. You have 15 minutes to examine the expressions of consternation, hostility and despair on the faces of the disciples, just as Jesus reveals his imminent betrayal. Because of Leonardo’s experimental technique, the fresco has faded through the years – but that doesn’t detract one iota from the experience of seeing it in the “flesh.” The room is humidity-controlled and non-flash photography is allowed.IMG_5157

5. Grab a gelato
Milan is full of gelaterias, serving flavorful, fresh gelato made from natural ingredients. Here’s the scoop on the ones we recommend. 😉 Grom uses only organic, fresh ingredients from around Italy: Sfusato lemon from Amalfi, and the Leonforte peach, for example. They have a central farm where all the raw ingredients are mixed, ensuring their high standards are met. Close by the main train station, Duomo Gelatieri is always fresh and made daily in the ice cream parlor with natural ingredients, no chemical ingredients and preservatives. Plus, they have a €1 cone available for children. You cannot beat that price, especially on a warm Italian day.IMG_4958

6. Marvel at the Pirelli Tower
Built in 2011, its illuminated spire evokes the Duomo, whilst stretching its height those extra few inches, making it Milan’s tallest building at 231 meters. This is the highest Italian skyscraper. The on the basement and ground floor, you will find restaurants, a bookstore and clothing stores.

7. Shop in style at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
With its glass-and-iron dome, magnificent mosaics and marble floors, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is definitely one of the world’s most glamorous and oldest (built in 1867) shopping malls. The first Prada store opened here in 1913. Note: You may see visitors come to spin their heels in the famous bull’s testicles, part of a floor mosaic said to bring good luck.Galleria_Vittorio_Emanuele

8. Lunch with the locals
Try the legendary panzerotti – a fried pastry triangle stuffed with tomato and oozing mozzarella – originally from Puglia, but definitely one of Milan’s most recognizable treats.

9. Discover Castello Sforzesco
The Sforzo Castle is the picture of the renaissance, with its rounded turrets, spacious courtyards and secret passageways. It also happens to be home to one of the city’s most precious, yet often overlooked, artworks: Michelangelo’s final, uncompleted sculpture, the Pietà Rondanini. We highly recommend picnicking on its lawn with an Italian sandwich during a beautiful, sunny day.

10. Eat the perfect plate of risotto
The saffron-laced risotto alla Milanese originated in the city and is rooted in its culture. Legend has it that on September 8, 1574, the daughter of Valerio di Fiandra, a craftsman making the stained-glass windows of the Duomo, was getting married. One of the apprentices, who used saffron to color the glass, came up with the idea of taking the white risotto that was to be served at the wedding banquet and turning it gold like his windows by adding the spice. The taste and golden color of the new dish was a hit with the guests and the addition of saffron to rice was widely adopted.

Ostello Bello Grande Feels like Home, Not Hotel

ostello_bello_grandeVintage-style furniture, geometric motifs and sophisticated taste, Ostello Bello Grande in Milan caters to contemporary travelers, who look for a “home” to stay in, as well as a dynamic location, in which details are well taken care of, places that might also become themselves a part of their travel experience.IMG_4943Their first Ostello Bello, located very close to the Duomo Cathedral, has been the hipster go-to place for a while, for all the visitors who want to live a local experience, coming into contact with the local culture and style. The same team recently opened another location near Stazione Centrale, restoring old hotel Florida: the new branch’s self-explanatory name is Ostello Bello Grande (Italian for “Beautiful Large Hostel”).OBGWith 6 floors, 55 rooms and about 500sqm of common spaces with vintage furniture, made for getting together, chatting, listening to music, Ostello Bello Grande provide you with breakfast and “aperitivo,” which is pretty much dinner in American circles. 😉 The basic idea of this project, started by 3 young Milan locals, is to create an active center for cultural life. This is why the suites of the old Florida were converted into a common kitchen and a reading room, with guitars and a piano made available for anyone who wants to play them. Their rooftop hosts a relax area with lounge chairs and tables.IMG_4944I was first recommended by this place from friend and Budget Traveller, Kash Bhattacharya. I was reluctant to even consider this place because it is classified as a HOSTEL. I mean, I just turned 40 and travel with my family, BUT Ostello Bello Grande is a new type of hostel popping up around the world. Kash has even listed it as one of the top LUXURY HOSTELS in Europe. This seems like an oxymoron, BUT I am so glad that I took his advice.IMG_4949My kids absolutely loved this place with Foosball table, piano, hammocks and bunk beds (each with their own light, electrical and USB outlet). My husband loved the outdoor patio, the kitchen where you can prepare your food from their FREE FOOD bins, and he also loved the hammocks. The room was quiet, and we had our own bathroom. I was reminded at check-in that it is a hostel by having to put a deposit down for towels and our key card, BUT they also offer a MIFI for guests who want WIFI as they explore through Milan.IMG_5024Overall, I will tell anyone over the age of 30 to consider staying in a hostel. Do your research, of course, but do not only explore Airbnb when traveling through Europe and beyond. Ostello Bello Grande feels like your home away from home, not just another hotel or hostel.

Why I Want to Attend LEAP Summit Zagreb? #LEAPzg

AttendLEAPSummitThere are so many great ways to learn and sharpen your skills these days: you can read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch how-to videos on YouTube, and attend webinars, just to name a few. Why bother with the time and expense of attending LEAP Summit in Zagreb, Croatia?

If that’s your attitude, then you may be missing out on one of the best opportunities to take your game to the next level. LEAP Summit provides a unique learning and career building opportunities that you just can’t find anywhere else.

Below you’ll find 5 reasons why you should attend LEAP Summit and consider sending your students and employees to conferences as well. 🙂

1. Iron Sharpens Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend. ” Proverbs 27:17 in the Bible. Stephen Covey also lists it as his sixth habit of highly effective people. To put it simply, “two heads are better than one.” Synergize is the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. People bring all their personal experience and expertise to the table, and together, they can produce far better results that they could individually.

I always return from a conference with new ideas and approaches that make me more effective and efficient at work. When people begin to interact together genuinely, and they’re open to each other’s influence, they begin to gain new insight. Don’t be “a dull axe” while your competition is being sharpened by others.

2. Meet Experts & Influencers Face-to-face

While not every conferences offers you the opportunity to meet people that you have been following online for years, your chances are greatly improved when you’re sharing the same space.

Sometimes it’s about taking a selfie with someone who’s influenced you, or sharing a business idea with someone you admire, or making a connection that can lead to finding your next mentor. This will never happen from an online success summit.

3. Networking Opportunities

Social media keeps me connected to people who are both local and live and work far away. However, there’s no substitution for meeting someone in real life.15271832_1040722436038580_8717944597149496358_oLEAP Summit has opportunities for attendees to mix and mingle, form new relationships, and strengthen existing ones. Over coffee or lunch, you may make a connection with the perfect provider or prospect. At a breakout session, you may find yourself sitting next to your next customer or mentor. Or, if you don’t go, maybe your toughest competitor will be sitting in your seat.

4. Learning in a New Space

Remember that scene in Dead Poet’s Society when Robin Williams made his students stand on a desk to get a fresh perspective?dead-poetsMany businesses have meetings off-site because it’s easy to find ourselves in a rut. Sitting in the same chair, in the same office or in the same coffeehouse, can keep us from thinking of new ideas. Taking a break out of the office, sitting in a new space, can spark us to new approaches that will grow our businesses.

5. The Energy of Like-minded Individuals

There’s nothing like being in a room of like-minded people, who are willing to take time away from school or work to learn something new and want to “better” themselves.

When you sit at the Summit, you discover that you’re not alone in wanting to improve your skills and bring something back to your office or organization. That energy is lacking in all online learning channels, regardless of how much chatter there may be around a hashtag.

LEAP Summit provides a unique convergence of networking, learning and fun into a single package. It forces you to grow and challenge yourself. Oh, and it is in Zagreb, my FAVORITE capital city in the Balkans. Just read about what you can do and see!

4 Smart Coffee Spots for a Zagreb Coffee Break
Photo Journal: Secret Walks in Zagrebarium

Next Steps

All of this has been on my mind a lot lately, as I countdown to LEAP Summit Zagreb on May 11-13, 2017.

The primary focus of the Summit is on themes connected to innovation, entrepreneurship and business development, leadership, creativity, inspiring and life changing stories, success stories and career development.

Date: 11-13 May, 2017
Place: Studentski centar, Savska cesta 25, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Cost: 300 kn (~€40) – 1500 kn (~€200), depending on when you buy tickets!

Learn More & Register for LEAP Summit Now >>

What other reasons are there for attending LEAP Summit? What lasting impressions did it leave for you? Leave your answers in the comments below…we read every one!

Business Travel: Athens, Greece

Business Travel Athens GreeceI am a firm believer in the idea of adding fun to a business trip. It’s not always easy to find free time when you’re traveling all over the place representing your company or brand, but business travelers should carve out time to enjoy themselves whenever possible. Whether you’re traveling to a new destination directly from a business trip, or spending a few extra days or hours in the city where you’re working, business travel can be a fun reward for your hard work. I have been to Athens, Greece, before with the family, but being alone changes your experience. Fortunately, Herodion Hotel and its sister-property, Philippos Hotel, hosted me for a one-night stay and a posh dinner at their establishments.

Cozy Hotel

If peaceful environment and low-key service appeals to you while you travel, the Philippos Hotel is a great choice. The 50-room hotel is located in Makrigianni, which merges into Plaka, on a peaceful side street close to the Acropolis metro station, just a 10-minute walk from the Acropolis itself. It includes a delicious buffet breakfast served at the all-day cafe. I HIGHLY recommend you try the Portokalopita, a Greek orange filo cake. I watched everyone grab a slice at breakfast, and the staff quickly replenishing. 😉orange-filo-cakeAfter sitting in a conference room all day, I basked in the my light, airy room. Drinking a glass of water and snacking on fresh fruit, I sat on my balcony that caught a glimpse of the Acropolis. The quiet street allowed me to collect my thoughts and enjoy the weather in Athens, Greece. Some but not all rooms have Acropolis views – there’s no extra charge for this, so specify if you want one, it’s totally worth it. Nearly all have balconies too, at no extra cost. The Philippos Hotel is an excellent value for money considering the location and the friendly atmosphere.Phillipos-Hotel

Naturally, Modern Restaurant

The Atrium Greek Bistrot restaurant in Herodion Hotel, Philippos’ sister property, is tucked at the back of the front lobby, where you sit under a skylight and can look up to the stars. Atrium specializes in homemade Greek recipes with a modern twist. The reviews online use words like “intimate,” “relaxing” and “magical atmosphere.”Atrium-Herodion-HotelOne of the things that I love about traveling is trying different dishes from around the world. Also, I like to treat myself while I dine, so I usually get two to three dishes to sample because why not?! 😉 Dining alone is a funny thing, some people can do it and others will not. I do not mind it, especially when you have the pleasure of an excellent server who really was a culinary host. Also, a woman, who is traveling the world, dined alone at the table next to me, and she really should have joined me since we talked together throughout our meal. After receiving recommendations from two servers at the Atrium, I started out with Loukoumades, fried cheese from Elassona drizzled in Greek honey, followed by Sea Bass on top of beans and finished with rose ice cream on freshly-made Syros Delight. The server insisted that I also try the Salmon with horseradish cream, served on fluffy “ladopsomo” bread from Kimolos Island. I am sooo glad that he did. It was amazing!Atrium-Greek-Bistrotdav

Getting There

Athens is well served with scheduled flights from Aegean, British Airways, easyJet, AirSerbia and Olympic.

Getting Downtown

There are lots of different options. Metro Line 3 serves the airport while Suburban Rail Services operate from Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis) and Piraeus. Taxis, limo transfers and Uber are also available from outside the airport terminal.

Must-See Sights

A 3km pedestrian zone has been created in the neighborhood of Plaka based around the sacred rock of the Acropolis, site of iconic architecture and art, including the photogenic Parthenon. If you travel off-season, the Acropolis is half-price, regularly €20. Give yourself an hour to climb up and take many pictures of these amazing site. Some 4,000 historical items are on show in the new Acropolis Museum, and for only €5, you do not want to miss it. Tip: Visit the Acropolis Museum before your climb to the Acropolis. You will have a greater understanding of what you are looking at, especially if you do not have a tour guide. Also, start on the top floor of the Acropolis Museum, where you can enjoy the view and take pictures of the Parthenon replica and make your way down. It will take you no longer than 2 hours to enjoy all of the museum. Take a stroll in Monastiraki with its stalls full of colorful spices and window shop on pedestrian avenue of Ermou in the center of Athens.btydav

Culture Club Creative Hub

Traveling on business and need a place to work? It’s the sharing economy to the rescue! Coworking could be just the answer you’ve been looking for, and I HIGHLY recommend checking out Bios Romantso , a cultural center, as well as a creative hub. Set in a 1930s building, it is spread across four floors. The ground level has a cafe/bar and a space for intimate performances. While the basement has a concert area, rehearsal studios and a recording studio. I attended the European Creative Hubs Network Forum here on the first floor. The remaining levels are used for workspaces.

Thank you again, Philippos Hotel and Atrium Greek Bistrot, for making my business trip more homey and enjoyable while I was away from the family.

Business Travel: Belgrade, Serbia

business-travel-belgrade-serbiaSerbia lies at the crossroads of Europe, connecting the East and West, with a diverse mix of cultures. Its landscape is sprinkled with medieval churches and fortresses, and the capital city, Belgrade, rests on the banks of the Danube. I am a firm believer in the idea of adding fun to a business trip. Whether this is your first business trip to Belgrade or you travel here often, Belgrade always reveals a little piece of its heart and soul through its food, fortresses and friendly hospitality. I have been to Belgrade, Serbia, before with the family, but being alone changes your experience.

Cool Hotels

If a small hotel with a sophisticated feel and a superb location appeals to you while you travel, Vila Terazije is a great choice. Overlooking the Terazije Square, this hotel is housed in a cultural heritage building and offers free WiFi and a flat screen TV in every room. Breakfast is served only in rooms, and you can choose what you want delivered for breakfast in bed. I recommend the burek and local coffee, a classic Serbian breakfast.TerazijeBreakfastKalemegdan and Knez Mihailova are only 500 meters away from Vila Terazije. After walking around Belgrade and sitting in a conference room all day, I collapsed in the comfortable bed. Vila Terazije is an excellent value for money considering the location and the friendly atmosphere. If you prefer to save more money, we highly recommend Cricket 2 Hostel, which is close to some of our favorite restaurants and cafes in Belgrade.cricket2hostel

Hip Restaurants

Bright yellow cranes frame the entrance to the Beton Hala, a port-side warehouse now filled with hip new art studios and restaurants. At starkly decorated Italian restaurant Comunale, you see posh businesswomen enjoying pizza, risotto and antipasti with a view of the Sava River through its double-height windows. Founder Aleksandar Rodić created an exciting and trendy space with clear design and big wooden tables and benches. As the name suggests, the idea is to encourage community gatherings or group interactions, while enjoying delicious meals.comunalepizzaMarukoshi Japanese restaurant opened in 2015 in lower part of Belgrade in the Dorćol area. It’s an authentic Japanese restaurant offering tasty Japanese dishes such as Ramen noodles, salads, gyoza, Udon noodles, curry dishes and interesting desserts. It’s a very comfy place where you can relax and enjoy Asian specialties in the heart of Belgrade.Marukoshi

Getting There

Belgrade is well served with scheduled flights from AirSerbia, Etihad Airways, Alitalia, airberlin and Aeroflot.

Getting Downtown

There are lots of different options. – The A1 mini-bus leaves every 30 minutes in front of the Arrivals area. The charge is 300 RSD (2.50 EUR). Taxis are also available from outside the airport terminal.

Must-See Sights

Walk around the Old Town, see the Kalemegdan Fortress and stroll along Knez Mihailova Street  – Belgrade’s main shopping street. Before it was turned into the peaceful green oasis that it is today, Kalemegdan was part of Belgrade’s fortress. The park gradually started to come into existence after Serbia’s liberation from Ottoman rule: trees were planted, paths were cleared and monuments were erected, including the Statue of the Victor (Pobednik) and the Monument of Gratitude to France. Come here for a break from work and go for a stroll on the promenade lining the Sava River.

First Coworking Space in Belgrade

Traveling on business and need a place to work? It’s the sharing economy to the rescue! Coworking could be just the answer you’ve been looking for, and I HIGHLY recommend checking out Smart Office, the first coworking space in Belgrade. Located right off of Knez Mihailova street, you walk through a hall and up the stairs to Smart Office, founded by Miroslav Mijatov. You’ll be greeted by Mira, who will make you feel like you are in your home office. With light jazz music playing in the background, you will have no problem getting to work or skyping with others in one of their conference rooms.SmartOfficeThank you, Smart Office, for making me feel a part of your community and get stuff done while I worked away from my office.

Last-Minute Gift that Keeps on Giving #Path2Peace

path2peaceThis time of year we gather our families and friends and give gifts to show our love, appreciation and gratitude. Our family likes to remember each year on our tree by buying an ornament with a story. I cannot tell you how grateful we were to receive a Rwanda Path of Peace gold basket ornament from Macy’s, so that I can share its story with you. What if your family was able to buy an ornament for your tree or give a gift that did even more than that? What if you gave a gift that kept on giving? The Rwanda Path to Peace product line sold at Macys.com offers sustainable income to Rwandan basket weavers by allowing them to support their families with dignity and purpose.

When you look at the gorgeous hand-woven products sold in Macys.com stores as part of the Rwanda Path to Peace program, it’s easy to see them solely as objects of beauty, but in fact, each basket represents a journey towards reconciliation for the women who made them.rwandaIn 1994, nearly a million Rwandans – 20% of the nation’s population – were massacred when tribal hatred between the Hutus and Tutsis turned into ethnic slaughter. It is one of the worst genocides in human history, and films like Hotel Rwanda just give you a glimpse into its history. After the violence ended, many Rwandan women found themselves thrust into the unfamiliar role of being the sole breadwinner for their families, since their husbands, fathers and sons had been killed.

Now more than twenty years later, Rwanda is a country of both hope and faith. Many women embraced an opportunity to heal. Weaving baskets became a way forward and a path toward peace. Women from both sides of the ethnic divide came together, wove baskets, and created an industry, which today supports thousands of Rwandan women and their families. One American woman helped the Rwandan women – social entrepreneur, artist, and activist, Willa Shalit. In 2005, Shalit showed the baskets to executives at Macy’s who committed to sell them and to go into business with the weavers in Rwanda. Macy’s offered them a hand up, not a handout.

HOW AWESOME IS THIS STORY?! It was a joy opening up the ornament and telling the family what the ornament symbolizes: hope, perseverance, creativity and peace. As a family, we believe in paying it forward by how we use our time and our resources. This Christmas season, purchase a gift for you and someone you love that makes a difference. Buying products like Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace that give hope and employment to women is a way to make sure your hard-earned dollars are making a difference. See the 10-year history of the program.
I was gifted a product from the Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace line, however all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Losing Aaron: Remembering a Superhero from Afar

img_1978This past week has been filled with such sadness, and I am having a hard time finding words to explain why. It took my husband and I almost a week to tell our kids because our hearts were filled with such grief, such pain and such loss. On Monday, October 10, I was reminded about the greatest enemy in life – death. Eight years, I wrote about a sweet young boy, Aaron, who was diagnosed with cancer. For eight years, the world saw Aaron as a fighter, a beautiful soul, a force to be reckoned with and most of all the things, he is most definitely a hero. I say this because Aaron was the first person who I personally knew that had cancer. I really didn’t know much about sarcoma until I heard his mother tell me. Since day one, Aaron showed his strength – his super power.aaron-jadyndscn3272aaron-benUnfortunately, my family would moved away from Aaron and his family a few months after his diagnosis, but we followed his journey online through his parents’ Facebook profile, his Facebook page and also his CarePages.com page. Aaron was a funny kid. He was like any other kid…like my kids, except he had cancer. He didn’t let that stop him from going to school, playing football (and even attending Arizona Cardinal games // cheering for the Denver Broncos, too) and loved playing the outdoors – fishing, swimming or surfing. My family would be fortunate to see Aaron when he visited MD Anderson in Houston a few year ago.img_1981 I think the kids forgot that they were in a hospital, as they laughed, laughed and laughed some more. They ate sweets, talked about Minecraft and acted like zombies. Well, the boys did. 😉 This is how we will choose to remember Aaron – the 11-year-old super boy who defied cancer and is living life in heaven with Our Savior.

Rest easy sweet boy, you fought an unfair fight with the strength of a thousand soldiers, and you did it with grace. No more struggling. Enjoy your feast with Jesus. We love you, and we look forward to seeing you again.

During this time of grief, it has been hard for our family. I have to admit that this IS the truly the hardest part about living abroad – not being able to hug our love ones in good times and times of mourning. Fortunately, for Facebook, we can send messages of condolences. Other ways we learned we can be there for the family are:

Special Delivery
The next best route to communicate aside from the telephone is by email or through the post office. Consider sending a weekly card in the mail for a year — this will be appreciated in the weeks and months that follow the loss when many others have withdrawn support. Consider sending a note of remembrance with a sweet story. If you sense that your friend is having trouble with daily life, you could order practical help for her such as a meal delivery or cleaning service for a set period of time.

Memorialize
In the case of a death, you might consider finding ways to honor the memory of the person. Ideas might include making a donation to a non-profit organization or to the funeral costs, planting a memorial tree, or having a quilt made out of the person’s favorite items of clothing. Tributes such as these show your friends that their loved ones’ are still in thoughts of those around them.

Baby Registry Wishlist: What to Buy

baby-registryThis post was created in partnership with Baby Cubby.

Building a baby registry is overwhelming! Trying to register for a baby can be challenging, so we have put together a wishlist of “what we would tell our pregnant selves now” registry.

TOP 5

#1. Swaddle Blankets like these from Aden + Anais

#2. Front Baby Carrier like the award-winning Ergobaby

#3. Bottle Warmer like this one from Avent, which transitions well in to a baby food warmer too.

#4. Pack ‘N Play like this one from Nuna – don’t forget sheets – these are differently sized than crib sheets.

#5. Changing Table with dresser like this posh Babyletto

Here are some other things that you really need.

5 MUST HAVE

#1. Car seat that can be used to carry baby around, such as Graco SnugRide (always get new!). Remember to have this properly installed before you go to the hospital to have that baby or they won’t let you take him or her home with you. Oops. Extra car seat bases are handy (but not essential) if you have more than one car.

#2.Stroller that can push around car seat – we prefer the bare bones snap-n-go models such as this Graco stroller frame for the first 5 months. Advantage is that they are light and fit easily into the car (also great to borrow since it has such a short shelf life – thanks to Whit for lending me hers).

#3. Diaper Bin – We picked this Munchkin / Arm + Hammer Diaper Pail for maximum stink control; it’s easy and doesn’t require special bags. Inspired by my preschool, I’ve also individually bagged the offending poopy diapers and carried them right outside. Some folks use regular old trash cans and take out the trash every day. Up to you.

#4. Swing, bouncy seat, both – You’ll hear mixed reviews on these puppies, they are great to borrow because the padded parts are fully washable and some tinies don’t really groove with some models. My baby slept in his swing for months, overnight! This bouncer/rocker combo really does last through toddlerdom.

#5. Diaper bag – You actually can use an oversized handbag or a backpack for diapers and associated changes of clothes. But if you can’t resist this rite of passage, pick out a style you like. Consider features like whether it’s too girly to share, if it clips to your stroller, how heavy/ bulky, and how happy you’ll be carrying it when your baby weighs 18 pounds. Whitney liked her Skip Hop and I used little Pack-it cubes chucked under the stroller. It’s a totally individual choice.

Posh Items

#1. Bathtub – We recommend either the Eurobath or the First Years; the Eurobath is quite large and costs more but both are good for newborns to toddlers (we used the Eurobath for three years!). Winning a genius award, we plunked our infant and tub on the kitchen counter to avoid bending and kneeling.

#2. Link-a-doos toy clips handy dandy loops that hold little toys onto the car seat, stroller, diaper bag or high chair. Sometimes, they’re also a favorite chew toy.

#3. My Brest Friend nursing pillow – Love love this thing for early breastfeeding when there are never enough hands; you can buy new or borrow one and wash the cover. A Boppy is also pretty good and has a second life helping your baby with sitting and tummy time.

#4. Baby monitor – The trend today is video and there are too many models for me to steer you one way or the other. Audio-only is also fine. We like to see lights on the parent unit that show you a baby’s distress as well as broadcast it and a small and battery-operated so you can take it with you.

#5. Mobile for crib – One that moves and is interesting from the bottom (baby’s view); used for about 5 months but it could be the difference between showering and not. If you’re feeling crafty, here’s how to make one that’s personalized.

5 OTHER ESSENTIALS

Here are things to have on hand, so you’re not running out to the store for the first couple weeks when you should be resting and bonding.

Health & Hygiene

#1. Nail clippers – The tiny nails of a newborn have to be trimmed more than once a week and it’s hard to guide those clippers. I recommend buying sharp nail scissors as well. Holden wore teeny mittens for the first 3 weeks of his life because we gave up on trimming the nails.
#2. Digital thermometer – you will likely be obsessed with how warm or cold your newborn is. If you tend to be a keep-track-of-everything type mom, you may write it all down or even graph it.
Washcloths – I don’t think there’s anything special about baby washcloths.
#3. Burp cloths – A pack of cloth diapers will do, but better are the ones that are found in the car washing section of a store like Target. You’ll want a stack in every room for the first 6 months.
#4. Baby Tylenol, Baby Orajel, Baby Mylicon, Gripe Water
#5. Baby shampoo and bodywash

Don’t Forget the Diapers!

#1. Newborn diapers – just one pack in case your baby is huge and outgrows ’em right away!
Size one diapers – a big jumbo case cuz you’ll need ‘em eventually.
#2. Diaper wipes – uber gentle for newborn skin… for the first month, I actually rinsed them of all chemicals before using. Whitney had on her list a Thermos for keeping water next to the changing table because she planned to use paper towels and water as instructed by the crunchy Berkeley hospital, but ended up being too lazy.
#3.Diaper bag sized container of wipes – to refill with wipes
#4. Diaper creams
#5. Purrell

Feeding the Baby

#1. Formula – Though this tip is controversial, we believe that even if you plan to nurse, you ought have some of this on hand in case of earthquake, fire, or other emergency.
#2. Formula dispenser – this handy item is for feeding on the go; this BPA-free one by Avent doubles as a snack dispenser for big babies.
#3. Bottle brush
#4. BornFree bottles – 2 sizes (4 oz and 8 oz) with nipples in sizes 1, 2, 3 and some soft sippy cup lids.
#5. Bottle drying rack

4 Things to Consider When Moving Overseas

moving_overseasMy journey overseas began exactly two years ago for me and my family. Living overseas in a brand new country is one of the few life experiences that changes you completely. You are never going to be the same person you were back at home. So much of what we do is taken for granted, and living overseas changes your perspective on life and how you live it – mainly because you start paying close attention to what would normally seem like mundane moments and strangers. Here are four things to consider if you and your family are considering moving overseas.

#1. FOMO. Suffering from fear of missing out.
As depressed as it sounds, FOMO is a real thing, especially with Facebook and Instagram. I mean, you are reminded how you are missing out on your family and friends lives and vice versa. You will want to be there for important moments like weddings, anniversaries, baby showers, and even funerals, but you can’t. Some of your friends will get annoyed with your absence, but it’s beyond your control because you’re on the other side of the world. The distance makes you appreciate your friends and family sooo much more. I’ve learned that if there’s anything in the world that brings family and friends closer, it’s distance – that’s also the true test of relationships.

#2. You become more aware.
Being transplanted to unknown places definitely heighten your senses in every way. As a result, you just become more aware of your surroundings – the people, the places and what is happening in your area. This starts to play out in your everyday life and in work. Awareness and attention to detail is never a bad thing. 😉 It is also true that you gain a better understanding on how the world looks at America. It is crazy how eye-opening some of U.S. weaknesses or challenges seem amplified when you live overseas. Maybe it is because the local people ask you a lot about why things happen in America, or they may ask you if you have the same view, as let’s say the president or people on the international news.

#3. You start to find yourself.
As cheesy as it sounds, it’s so true. You are never going to spend as much time alone as you do when living overseas. I am thankful that I can say with Romans 8:28 that God uses all things for the good of those who love him, even my times alone, actually because of these times alone, it has reminded me of my deepest spiritual need, who is Jesus Christ. You have to get over the stigma of doing things alone, like navigating an unknown territory with people not understanding you. You are going to face the most difficult times of your life, but you also come out stronger and develop an incredible sense of self identity and renewed purpose in life.

#4. I always knew I wanted to live overseas.
Whether it was through study abroad or employment, I just wanted to live overseas. I mean, I found my husband overseas, so I was bound to live here with family, right?! I don’t regret it a single day. I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. If you’re even thinking about living overseas, I’d encourage you to GO. Run. Don’t walk.

Did I miss anything? Have you lived overseas? Please share you advice and experiences below!

New Network TV Shows You Must See This Fall

watching-tvWhat better way to welcome fall than by watching some binge-worthy TV shows? Snuggle up, settle down and switch off your brain in front of the TV. We hope this will help you decide what to watch this fall!

Timeless

The concept: Can this group of travellers stop a villain from changing the past and thus changing the future?
Why you should watch: We are intrigued by this kind of twisty trope-filled time party.


American Housewife

The concept: This show is a comedy about a confident, unapologetic wife and mother of three, who raises her flawed family in the wealthy town of Westport, Connecticut, filled with “perfect” mommies and their “perfect” offspring.
Why you should watch: We like the way they are dealing with what it’s like to be an average-sized women with America’s super-thin ideals! The average American woman is 5’4″ and 166 pounds. The idea of a weekly reality check on what is normal, done with laugh-out-loud moments is something to be watched!


This Is Us

The concept: A drama about a selection of people with the same birthday whose lives unexpectedly intersect.
Why you should watch: If you are Parenthood fans, this show will fill the hole in your heart. “This Is Us” is, without a doubt, the fall’s most emotionally engaging TV show.


Designated Survivor

The concept: A terrorist attack has claimed the lives of the president and the members of his cabinet, except the secretary of housing and urban development. “Designated Survivor” is part political and part procedural.
Why you should watch: The cast is terrific. Kiefer Sutherland is a surprisingly good fit as a man thrust into a situation he doesn’t want to be in. Plus, you get all-around good actor (and real-life ex-White House employee) Kal Penn, playing a White House employee.


Speechless

The concept: This show features a mom on a mission, who will go to any lengths necessary for her husband Jimmy and her kids – Ray, Dylan and JJ, her eldest son with special needs. The family works to make a new home for themselves while they search for just the right person to give JJ his “voice.”
Why you should watch: This is a sweet show that is a little different from the other comedies on TV. You will really fall in love with this family. 🙂

What will you be watching this season?