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A day in Tampa Bay

Once upon a time we woke up really early and headed to Tampa for a fun-filled day. Sure that opening line sounds dreamy and effortless, but it was just that! My husband planned the whole thing; he even picked the restaurants which is usually MY thing! And you know what…our day was perfect! Here is a guideline of how we pulled off our day with toddlers, naps and instagrammable momentos!

Firstly, we planned ahead. We knew that the focus was to visit the Florida Museum in Tampa Bay. We also knew that food is always a key player in our outings. Another thing is that I blog! And well, I needed to document the trip as much as possible and create content-worthy images for you guys! Ok, so here we go:

The night before, we packed two bags. One bag had our clothes, blankets, sweaters (just in case) and a first aid kit. Second bag was our “day bag”. This was chic diaper bag on steroids fully equipped with diapers, wipes, water, snacks, camera and accessories. The evening before our big outing, we set our  alarms for 6am, and we pre-styled our girls’ hairs before bedtime. We knew that we would be taking pictures and figured neither Alegra or Eliana would let us touch their hair at 6am! Genius right!? We also made a route map of “musts” and “kid-permitting” places/things we wanted to do/see.

Morning of…

As planned, parents were up at 6am, Dad handled breakfast and to-go snacks. Mom handled getting ready and dressing girls. It was important to feed the girls breakfast in their pjs, so we had clean outfits for our first stop. Everyone was ready and in the car by 6:40 a.m.  The girls as suspected slept through the entire ride to Tampa. We arrived to the infamous Oxford Exchange,  exactly when they opened 8AM. We were promptly seated by the beautiful patio. 

A little about Oxford Exchange (OE). It is nestled in a  stone street with a southern vibe across from a church. Upon opening the doors you are welcomed by art. The floor is a beautiful black and white pattern setting  the tone for the rest of the space. Now, OE  is not just a restaurant…when you enter the space, Darby Parker, then a book store,  shoe polishing services, a coffee shop, Aesop skincare store, and a shop featuring curated pieces from the restaurant and favorite things by owners. It is also home to The Commerce Club, “a quiet, comfortable and professional space for work, study and private meetings”. Though, thats awesome, I was here for the food (please check out my insta review on their pancakes) and the architectural beauty of this structure.  The restaurant serves “weekday breakfast and lunch, weekend brunch, and afternoon tea. No matter where guests are seated, you are surrounded by art, an open kitchen, and a sunlit conservatory. The menu offers fresh and seasonal items, a new translation of the classic bistro. Lastly, I think the modern brutalist designs remind me a little of my beloved NYC, and a little of what I have brought into my home… brass, black and white with pops of green <3.

After OE, we refreshed the girls, changed them into comfy clothes. We did the same. How? Umm we have an SUV with tinted windows lol. So in a breeze Los Vasquez were a united front again, ready for the Florida Aquarium (www.flaquarium.org). The aquarium was only 12 minutes away; we were there in no time. The girls were mesmerized  by the big cruise ships at the bay, and it must be something in the air… but it enticed us to plan a cruise trip (I have never been). We paid $6 for parking. Admission per adult is $30, children 2 years and older pay $7. We decided to sign up for the yearly membership for $130 for a party of 3, Nana does not pay until next year, when we renew. Here is a direct link to the membership plans. 

Once inside, we were reimbursed for parking now that we were members! (Actually, I went to customer service and asked for my money back assuming my rights as a member). There, I also learned that we had tons of perks as members, including 50% the zoo and other parks within the SHARE programs (click on link above for more). We then start making our way through the exhibits. The girls seem extremely pleased with the Madagascar exhibits, maybe for its tropical feel and chirping birds flying above our heads. I almost forgot I was indoors. The overlook exhibits are always a winner here and at any other aquarium. Seeing all of the bigger species dance around and being able to witness it all from a tunnel, is truly a privilege. I think this is where we claimed a corner and camped for a while to just admire the beauty of the sharks. Its was a great opportunity to show Alegra what their natural habitat looks like, and how not all fish belong in one pond (if you know what I mean lol). We then stumbled upon the outdoor terrace overlooking the Splash Pad… I honestly did not even know it existed, and frankly thought it was not part of the aquarium. The overlook view from the terrace was such a treat, we were really able to appreciate the bay from above, and the ships of course. Alegra ran around with the sun in her eyes making the best photo worthy squinty face. From there we passed by the coral reef conservation, this was a solemn reminder that our planet needs our TLC. 

Around 12:00pm, we needed to munch on something and put our girls down for a nap. We took a quick drive to Ybor City, which was maybe 8 minutes from the aquarium. Randy was craving real pan Cubano, and some say that La Segunda bakery is one of the last real Cuban bakeries around. Some say this place was a Theodore Roosevelt favorite. By now, Eliana was asleep and Alegra was borderline cranky. We took turns going into La Segunda. We bought cheese and guava pastries (duh!), a 4 foot long pan Cubano, some empanadas among other goodies.  While the girls slept in the car, we drove around Ybor, sight-seeing and enjoying our treats. We stopped by the Ybor Park, I chased some roosters and busted the myth (I did not believe there were roosters wandering the mean streets of Ybor lol). We stopped at Columbia Restaurant to make a reservation and continued on our car-tour. Randy got a nice treat with his purchase of handmade cigars. When the girls woke up, we walked around the downtown area and were tempted to visit the museum, but our reservation at Columbia was approaching.

Ahh Columbia Restaurant. With over 5K reviews on TripAdvisor and another 6K on Yelp… rating about 4.5 stars, this Spanish restaurant (which can easily be confused for Cuban) is the place to eat at while in Tampa. I was like a kid standing in front of the biggest rollercoaster ready for the ride! Owned and operated by 5 generations over the last 110 years.  It is the oldest restaurant in Florida, founded in 1905 and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world! We came here for the salad, and boy what a salad that was! I added camarones al ajillo to mine. I will leave my food details for my pending published review. But in short, Columbia was quite a delightful dining  experience! My eyes wandered with so much art around me and was floored by the volume of patrons. Please be sure to stop by here, its flagship location, or its other sister restaurants around Florida.

After this late lunch, early dinner we headed home. The sun was low on our drive back, and it was wonderful remising our day on our drive back.  We were home around 6pm, and we couldn’t believe how much we had done and enjoyed in just a few hours. This all because of our awesome planning. I thank my husband for executing this idea and treating our family with a  day to remember by the bay. #dadandmomwin

 

Grey and loving it…a lifestyle of empowerment

I found my first grey hair strand when I was around fourteen years old. That initial strand soon invited others to follow its lead. I vividly remember plucking each strand out one by one every time I’d see their silver presence. For a while they seemed to be non existent, so I assumed I “won” the premature grey hair battle.

To my surprise, my early twenties brought back ALL of the strands I’d previously plucked plus more! So for the past 12 years, I spent countless hours exhaustingly dying my hair to cover what I thought aged me. I would touch up my roots with hair dye every 3 weeks…can we say damaging! I grew tired of the struggle, but was fearful of taking that leap to just go grey.

It wasn’t until last year while pregnant with my second child that I decided to embrace my natural hair color. I knew with the coming of another baby, I’d have to make some shifts and master time management. Forgoing the hair dye task would definitely give me some valuable hours back. What once seemed inconceivable turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Learning to embrace me and experience me the way God made me has been such a beautifully freeing experience. Through each transition in life, I’ve learned that acceptance of all parts of you starts with yourself…and you know what, I’ve happily accepted that I am one hot silver fox! ARH-WOOOOOO!

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The Personal Chef experience with Chef Brito of YMB Catering

With my husband’s constant travel and last minute schedule adjustments, it is really difficult to seamlessly plan pre-paid events, reservations and getaways. I am not complaining…I love living on the edge lol; but sometimes it can be annoying. I am naturally a control-freak and a bit anxious so handling last-minute changes does a number on me because outside my family, my heart and life revolve around food. So I started thinking of ways that I can plan ahead and buy our family more time together while doing awesome stuff.

For instance, I already know that 1. Valentine’s day is overrated, and commercialized…. but that IS an excuse to eat (my heart smiles) 2. My hubby has tentative travel plans around those days 3. Sitters will be all booked and I only have two on my rolodex. After a few failed attempts at planning what might be canceled, I decided to eliminate the variables and “rescheduled” the Valentine’s dinner for a day I knew he would be home, saved the sitter money, eliminated the production of compressed “mommy getting ready in 15 mins” and did away with having to travel to a restaurant during traffic in Orlando’s Route 4, no gracias! My ingenious idea was the easiest of them all: call Chef Brito of YMB Catering to cook for us…. you know…a traditional “Valentine’s Day” dinner…Surf & Turf baby!

It was the most perfect idea! YMB arrived early, hauled in her crates of pots, tools and pre-measured ingredients. I gave her a quick tour of our kitchen and showed her where all the essentials were (in my pjs because I was still getting ready) I was impressed at how “portable” her set-up was… it was beautiful to watch! She was “that” level prepared…I mean there was a portable waste basket, stove-top grills, a torch and what looked like an arsenal of disposable gloves and white crisp kitchen towels. The real kicker in the set-up was how thorough this planning was and how seamless the set-up was. To see several cutting boards for veggies and meats… it was like seeing cherubs sing… you know.. because I am OCD and well of course you cannot expect less from a professional chef. I was in awe. I must also add that I was making multiple trips to my bedroom as I was still getting ready!!! This was such a win for me! At one point I even checked up on the babies, and all was good and I was even more excited than before because I knew all was going to be under control. ❤️

Chef Brito was focused and as soon as I saw her chop the shallots in a nano-second I asked Randy if we could sit by the island and be entertained by her skills. My initial idea was for us was to experience a complete private dinner, but I DO have an open-concept kitchen so unless I sat in our  backyard there was no way this curious foodie could sit still while hearing the melody of a chopping knife and a soft sizzle.

Because  I had a front row seat, I really must say that I experienced this private dining on another level. Let me paint you the picture… I felt as if I was a judge on “Iron Chef America”, Chef Brito’s  focus was that of a competition, yet she managed to take time to briefly explain the process and answer all questions. Typically a private dining experience would be different, where the dining party is usually seated away from the cooking action. In that case the private dining experience is much more intimate. However, we were thrilled to get to know her through hearing story and the love for her craft.

Once dinner was plated on our nicely heated plate, our wine poured and mood set for the evening, Chef Brito delivered our beautiful dinner: ribeye steak, crab cakes with a side of zesty remoulade, arugula with cherry tomatoes in lemon and oil, and grilled asparagus. The food she prepared was the perfect pairing for an evening with my hubby. We were able to enjoy dinner AND a show with Chef Brito. The savory flavors and aromatic delight of the beautifully dressed plates of Chef Brito’s creations was just what we needed to truly enjoy our Mom and Dad evening alone. Thank you Chef Brito for taking the stress of planning a romantic date night off of this overwhelmed mami’s plate! 

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NYC Chick moves to Lake Nona, Orlando, FL

a neo-modern community…

I’m a big city girl who’s familiar with big city living. When my husband and I decided to uproot our small family from NYC to the burbs in Central Florida, it was a genuine search for space, growth and a suburbia lifestyle for our girls. Fast forward to one year later where I’m homesick and missing the constant social environment and activities centered lifestyle we were so accustomed to. After some research and intense discussion with my hubby, we decided once again to make a move…this time from Kissimmee, FL to Laureate Park a trés chic community, nestled in Lake Nona, Orlando, FL.

Can you spot my new digs?

My previous home was great! However, everything around me was too rural, I wasn’t crazy about the neighborhood schools’ performance and the local dining experience was blah. Discovering Laureate Park in Lake Nona, FL was a dream…literally I dreamt about a place where I had the best of both worlds: family-centered and trendy community. Laureate Park provides both plus so much more! Laureate Park how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Lol, check out the top reasons why I fell in love with this amazing community:

1. Top builders from across the globe are right here! I know fancy and the architectural designs of the homes are beyond anything I’ve seen. Just check out the www.crafthomes.com to see some amazing designs, like our very own Brewer model, which we love (home debut blog, coming this spring!!!)

2. Network, NETWORK, nEtWoRk. Demographically, tons of young professionals and young families. An ideal place for new families with working mom and/or dad.

3. Location. Guys, 10 minutes from the airport! Who has a constant traveling husband? I do! So convenient for my husband on his travel days. I was doing an hour drive to the airport with my two little sopranos in the back seat 2-3 times a week! Imagine driving an hour to the airport then another hour back home with two screaming toddlers. No bueno!

4. Super active. I live in a resort. Almost. So many activities and things to do! Our community calendar is amazing, just peek at our Facebook community page (https://www.facebook.com/learnlakenona/) We also have a community manager every few blocks. Loads to do like,  #winewednesdays where each home within a community has the opportunity to host an evening of BYO, Amazing Explorers Academy (aexplorers.com/) for the little ones, Canvas Restaurant (https://canvaslakenona.com), breathtaking golf clubs, an abundance and variety of parks – nature parks, toddler parks (every home is within walking distance of one), and amusement parks of course (have you heard of Disney???) In addition, a water park is scheduled to open this summer!!! This list can go on, I can talk all day about “Art after dark”, “movie night by the park” and community yoga! But what I must also highlight is the community’s active presence in instagram (only mi favorito)… Lake Nona’s handle is @learnlakenona. There are some very cool and engaging accounts like @nonahoodlatino and @lakenonasocial that you will love! (I will save these for another blog).

This video is 4 yrs old!!!! can I say it’s 100xs better!?

5. Community of the Future. Lake Nona is living in the year 3019. Going outside of the neighborhood makes me feel as if I’m a time traveler going back in time. Seriously. For example Laureate Park is one of the first U.S. gigabit communities and one of nine Iconic Smart + Connected communities in the world! Cutting-edge tech is imbedded in every corner of this community.  The most technically advanced medical facilities are situated right here. Nemours Children’s Hospital (nemours.org), Orlando VA Hospital (orlando.va.gov), and several university medical research centers. I mean come on do I need to say anymore? My list could have been much more extensive, but I’ll save the rest of the ‘hood for you guys to explore and see how great it truly is. If you’re thinking about visiting Orlando, come to Lake Nona, don’t give it much thought – just come down and see for yourself why I’m living in “the happiest place on earth”! (Sorry Disney…I had to borrow that line).

So here it is, this explains my grand excitement for being part of this community, and my muse for the recent changes in my blog. I have truly found home. I am dying to read your responses! let’s continue the chit chat on here and @onceuponamami … thank you for reading and watching!

A letter to my believers…

Dear Friends,

Can you believe @onceuponamami is turning one!? I can’t believe it either! Such a big girl now! 

Although I may not be the best at staying consistent with my posts, I’m so blessed to have followers as consistent as you. Thank you for sticking with me on this journey because it’s only going to get more exciting from here. Promise. I’m actually working on some very exciting things for you…shhh.

Here’s a couple of things to expect from me this year:

Learning more about the things I do and call “work”!

Writing. This means I am beefing up my reviews on yelp.com and getting a little more technical with my writing. I’ll be sharing these critiques with you and organizing them for you to utilize with ease. Just think about ordering the perfect meal at a new restaurant on your first visit. Pretty amazing right? Well that’s why I’m here to help! Speaking of writing, I want to introduce you guys to Pencil Loft, small writing company powered by women founded by my business partner and yours truly.  Pencil Loft specializes in content editing and writing tailored to meet our clients’ needs. We are still getting dressed and arriving to the party in February 2019! Lol – stay tuned!

Real Estate
I’ve let you all in on “House of Wolves” vía Instagram. HOW is a real estate investment company that my husband and I founded in 2016. Through this business, we buy, renovate and rent homes which I manage.  This year I aim to be more transparent about “how”, “why” and “where”   we invest and my favorite part of it all…designing!

Onceuponamami
This webpage will be glammed up in the near future with a cleaner look, less pink and more content! I’ll be adding pages dedicated to my restaurant reviews, fashion, home renovation ideas and top picks! I’ll be in mommy mode sharing more pics of my minis and definitely sharing more ME since you all have given me so much of YOU.

Gracias and cheers to our first of many years together !

Mary

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How to Impress your Mother-in-law & make her your new BFF

So there I was making my way out of my then boyfriend’s apartment (now, my husband aaaooww)… face beat from hell, hair: a beautiful mess, wearing a borrowed T-shirt… looked like a classic “walk of shame” but in this case… I had legit rights lol, he was mine and he knew it…and I was in  a rush and blah, blah, blah aka “walk-of-shame” to my canary yellow Audi TT (details of the car are completely insignificant… but in my head I couldn’t had been in a more subtle car… it had to be yellow 😂). I knew who she was, from pictures obviously and he told me she was on the way… but never knew she was a ninja, and well she showed up in a matter of seconds. “Oh! hola Señora! como esta? yo soy Mary.” (open door to car, slip in, look up at Randy looking out the window dying laughing.) I do not remember what she responded, I spoofed and thought to myself that I was doomed with la Doña.

Later on I connected with Randy, obviously, I interrogated him…asking him every detail and syllable enhancement she made while talking about her encounter… he assured me that I was fine, and kept laughing.

That weekend or so, we arranged a proper meeting. We hosted her at his apartment, I cooked and took over for the night. This was a super BIG deal. The things you do on the first encounters with your Mother-in-law (MIL) matter. So here was my strategy to “play it cool”.

1. I thought I blew it, by looking soooo umm casual that first day (let me not even get into what she might of thought of me with her Traditional-Catholic-Dominican-conservative beliefs…as I am pretty sure I depicted the devil).

2. Hosting her will allow me the opportunity to vanish her first impression of me, by really showing her what I am about…oh, and I did.

I proceeded with making my famous lasagna, the best meat blend, best fresh mozz, and tons of basil and garlic.. (you know, to have something to talk about lol). I didn’t miss a detail, a green salad, a choice of wine, and dessert. Ah, here is where attention to detail comes into place: find out what she likes and dislikes…and well sneak that in there here and there, and whatever she does not like well stay away from that… unless you guys have something in common that you guys dislike together lol. Your partner MUST be  your ally in this, he/she has to give you the scoop, but you also need to do your homework by asking these types of questions, so you are prepared for this encounter. But let’s go back  little… let’s talk about my appearance. I did not dress to impress, I wore something chic-comfy I mean we were in his apartment on a Sunday during football season… lets’ be real. My hair did look really nice, my makeup was subtle but done, nails were of course manicured. I did not change the way I talked, I was trying to show her who I really was without making it so obvious that I was trying to impress. How did I do that, and what you must keep in mind:

  1. Don’t do anything you cannot keep up.
    1. be yourself, if your plan is to be around for a while then it will be difficult to keep up appearances.
    1. I cooked, yes, a hella good lasagna. Yes, that sends some kind of message, that of I like to cook maybe, and that I am willing to slave every time she’s around… NOPE, that’s not me! so, I made sure I drove the message I wanted to send. “This is a special occasion, I don’t usually cook like this (or ever), I prefer to go out to eat, but will hold it down if I have to” and I did that, by making casual and subtle jokes like “I hope you guys enjoy the meal…it might be the last meal I will ever cook in  my life” and laugh…and then follow by “no, seriously I am not joking lol” you get the point. Its ok to show off, but its more important to show who you really are.
  2. Dress the part. When you go to a job interview, you dress the part right? well, this is no different. If your intentions is to be with your partner forever, then you need to understand that la Doña is one of the most influential people in his/hers life. Therefore you want to look like a regular version of you, but in a way that conveys “I care”.  Listen, no judgement here… if you are Goth or Emo, more power to you, but if you know la Doña might cringe at your drawn in tears, maybe lay that day go easy on her with your regular look, but don not O.D. You know what I mean. This is very important that you understand this, and also learn to understand how MIL thinks… oh she’s a republican? she believes in such and such and maybe this and that. Take notes, because you don’t have to agree with what her beliefs are, you just need to navigate around them intelligently. For example my MIL is a Republican, while I am not. I try not talk politics around her and her husband, because 1. I can’t keep up on the conversation (politics its just not my thing) 2. We will disagree, and I know myself enough that I will sit there 4 hours trying to make my point if I have to (nope, not worth it) 3. She is who she is, and I love her for all that, and I like treating her with the respect she deserves and vice versa.
  3. Expose your weaknesses. Relax! breathe… trust me! your strengths will naturally shine, and you know this. So really really on those super powers and shine like a diamond. However, by talking about a weakness or two you are making yourself vulnerable, you are being real and setting the right expectations for the future. No one likes an ego, so speaking of say for example “I am a terrible cook” (to keep the theme going) is good! it shows that though you do not have an affinity for the culinary arts, you put forth some effort to host. It will also save you from casserole duty for family parties lol (I get no requests… maybe a fruit salad 🙂 ). To be honest, I cook, but I cook what “I” like… so if la Doña is not into ceviche… but I am that’s cool. We will just keep at “I don’t cook for crowds.”

Now, it’s been a few years since that first experience. But there have been a lot of “firsts” with la Doña and I. You will have those too, like who turns the candles for the cake and brings it to him/her lol… (it has happened to me) or, who initiates grace in your own home. So, always keep in mind that YOU are the new person in everyone’s life in your partner’s family. So, do not take things so personal, they are honestly getting used of you as much as you are getting used of the idea of them. I recall getting upset at many different things… but let’s be real… in-laws will always thing “we”are babies, though we may be able to run circles around them and have successful careers etc.  My first experiences with my MIL have all been unique, and often I have had to speak up and ask for her to take a seat, and often she has handed me the baton to lead the crowd… I am lucky, because my MIL is honestly an angel. Yes, she has spoiled her kids rotten, but she is loving, respectful and has embraced me as a daughter. To the point where my husband thinks she sides with me on everything. I give her fashion and beauty advice, I introduce her to tech like Amazon.com (I mean, same-day delivery curtains!!? hello? #IWIN) and Pinterest (I blew her mind).

Our relationship has grown so much, and today I am so grateful to have her. She is one of the very few people I trust my daughters with. I seek her advice ALWAYS, when it comes to home-remedies and other mom-stuff. At times, I even open up about my relationship with her son, and she honestly gives me sound advice without coming from a judgmental place. She respects that we are very different, and praises me to others. I have earned her trust and respect because I have always, and I mean always kept it 100%. Never have I smiled things away, just because of who she is, and she admires my backbone. She respects my decision making, because I have reassured her and proved that I am as capable as any other “fantasy daughter in law” lol… her grand children are well taken care of, son too, and my home is on point. That is honestly all they care about… Me, Goth, Vegan it does not matter, as long as everyone is alright. I know deep in my heart she thinks we are babies, and that is ok (my mom thinks the same), but  little by little I keep building with her. She is now a very good friend, and mother to me. We maintain an open communication style that allows for feedback and gratitude.

Please enjoy the video embedded below:

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25 Things to Put on Your Baby Registry & Others You Should NOT

I cannot help myself but to write this with a  big smile on my face. I remember how clueless I was when I created my first born’s registry. I think I even created multiple registries… not knowing how complicated it became and hard to keep track of purchases. That is why I decided to share a “cliff-note” version of what can be an exciting but very tankful experience. In this article you will find my favorite items, those I wish I had and which you should not add to your registry.

When should consider creating a registry?

  1. 12 weeks of gestation. Waiting this healthy period to start creating your registry  is very appropriate as most miscarriage threats are now off the table. Also, it may be the beginning of you starting to look pregnant. In addition, you may already know the sex of the baby by the 12 week.
  2. When you find out the sex of the baby! this is such an exciting time! it literally has your mind flying in so many directions just thinking about what to buy your little one/s, and obsessing over Pinterest for nursery ideas! (fun fact: I waited until birth to find out the gender of my first born, Alegra)
  3. Around 6 months of pregnancy, you’re thinking “OMG why so late!?” well, here’s why: I changed my mind so many times during the course of my pregnancy that I was constantly changing infant carseats, tubs, you name it. With every conversation with another mom that suggests one thing, then the ads you see, also just all the products that keep launching. At 6 months, you have a very good idea of what you want, and you feel “mature” in the baby lingo and may even be able to tell one stroller from another from far away lol #facts.

Who should you register with?

Honestly, I will leave this one up to you. We all have very different shopping styles, budgets and likes. Amazon, was phenomenal when I used them, but I also registered with Pottery Barn Baby, because I wanted my nursery from there (twice). However, I must say that you may also put into perspective “who” will be purchasing these gifts… are they tech-friendly? do they know how to order online? will these people read your instructions? like: “Please ship all gifts to this address” or “Please make a donation on my baby’s behalf to…” so all of these are very important variables, Yes! it should be whatever you want, but let’s be frank…you are not the one buying the gifts (smiles).

What should you add to the Registry?

First, let me begin with what you shouldn’t. Again, this is my perspective based on my experiences:

  • NO item under $25*
    • I registered for a lot of nothings, if that makes sense? a whole bunch of pacifiers I did not use, funky little things that seemed cool but not in real life. Basically, I wasted people’s money and missed out on a valuable gift instead. Think of those people that like buying a lot of “little things”…. you get the picture.
  • NO clothes
    • This one might seem a little crazy to you… but unless this is your second kid, I do not recommend getting clothes, unless its just white onesies long and short sleeves in all sizes and socks. As a novice you may not know how uncomfortable it is to change these little newborns… and how soon many clothes are just designed poorly. I suggest you stock up on your own with baby’s firsts… this can be an extended shopping list from “hospital bag”. Newborns barely get dirty (unless baby has acid reflux), they almost live pajamas for the first three months. Also, if you register with a store that sells very good nursery furniture and not known for best quality clothes… you are doing yourself and your baby a disservice. You should opt for gift cards instead so you can buy from your preferred retailer, and see what kind of baby you have….does the baby have any allergies? does baby get hot easily? and so on. I may also add, people will buy you more than you ask for…and sometimes you may not exactly like what they have chosen for your baby. Food for thought.
  • NO “infant” anything
    • Trust me! these kids grow fast! If you prepare that “baby’s firsts” list you will be good. All you will need at first is: socks, onesies (kimono style is my  fav), pajamas, hats, mittens and diapers). Do NOT buy infant diapers in size 0 or too many 1’s. You may  leave the hospital with a whole bunch anyway (wink).
  • NO baby bottles
    • You might think I am nuts, I am not really. I read all the reviews there were, and bought the best. I was lucky enough that my kids liked what I bought right from the beginning. With Alegra I used Dr. Brown’s, and with Eliana I currently use Tommee Tippee. However, all babies are different, and have different feeding styles. I suggest you you wait on this until you are home with the baby for a week or so. If you successfully breastfeed, then this is not a problem for you (though having a bottle or two will come in handy in case of an emergency). My kids were breasted and also bottle fed with breast milk. For at least the first two weeks they fed on the hospital tube-looking bottles with the disposable nipples. Once you are home, and have taken the baby to his/her first medical check-up… you’ll know if your baby has any feeding issues, like acid reflux, or just simply only likes the boob or a bottle from the many samples you’ll receive. Imagine if you sterilize your $200 collection of baby bottles while nesting and your baby hates them…? wasteful. So, that’s my science behind waiting on bottles. Again, I cannot stress gift-cards enough :).
  • NO skin care
    • Lotions, shampoos, etc. should wait until you know what kind of baby you will have. Eczema is real, and so are many other skin conditions that babies are born with or may develop within a few days. That is why it is important to hold off on buying these, same concept as above. Also, you know very well you will be packing a mini travel size one anyway lol so yea, you will be fine. Try samples before you buy.
  • NO wipes warmer
    • At first I was all about getting this, and then my husband reasoned with me and reminded me that when we go out with the baby I won’t have the warmer with me… it’s true. What will I do then? and that was enough for me to cross that out of my list. You may not want to custom your kid to anything you cannot keep up, ’nuff said.

OK, what we all have been waiting for!

Here are my top 25 things you should absolutely register for:

  1. Gift cards or Cash

Image result for gift cards and cash

2. Baby Detergent (Club size please 🙂 )

Dreft Stage 1: Newborn Liquid Laundry Detergent, 64 Loads, 100 fl oz (perfect fro sensitive noses) $15.99

3. Crib

Monique Lhuillier Sateen Ethereal Butterfly Baby Bedding

Blythe Convertible Crib $999

4. Crib Mattress

Serta® Perfect Balance™ Crib and Toddler Mattress in Dove Grey $79.99 (buy any that you like, hey are all safe and relatively do the same, I bought mine from pottery barn)

5. Nursery Bedding

Monique Lhuillier Sateen Ethereal Butterfly Baby Bedding

Monique Lhuillier Sateen Ethereal Butterfly Baby Bedding $19 – $329 (I fell in love with this collection, and designed Eliana’s nursery around this design)

6. Changing Table

Fillmore Extra-Wide Dresser & Changing Table Topper, Simply White

Fillmore Extra Wide Dresser & Topper Set $1379 (I feel safe to say that ay pottery barn furniture can last you a lifetime)

7.  Changing Pad

Changing Table Pad

Luxe Chamois Changing Pad Cover, Changing, (multiple colors) $19.00- $55.00 ( I own this combo and its still perfect after 3 years)

8.  Diaper Pail

Playtex® Diaper Genie® Complete Assembled Diaper Pail in White with Refill $39.99 (try buying smaller size… this product is great but you never want to risk sitting on too many diapers) $39.99

9. Travel system (Stroller + Infant car seat + – universal car seat adaptor)

2018 UPPABABY VISTA AND MESA TRAVEL SYSTEM (in loic color, which is what I have and love it) $1,199.98

10.  Baby Monitor

MOTOROLA MBP36XL Baby Monitor $179

11. Pack n’ Play

4moms&reg; Breeze Plus Playard in Black

4moms® Breeze Plus Playard in Black (also available in white) $299

12.  White Noise Machine (if monitor does not include)

SKIP*HOP&reg; Moonlight & Melodies Owl Nightlight Soother

SKIP*HOP® Moonlight & Melodies Owl Nightlight Soother $39.99

13. Diapers size 2+

14.Baby wipes (unscented or water based

15. Wipes Dispenser

PDP main image

OXO Tot® Perfect Pull™ Wipes Dispenser in Teal $19.99

16. Diaper Basket

Harper Caddy Liner, Gray

Harper Caddy Liner, Multiple Colors available, liner is $15.50 + Embroidery $9.00 + Basket $19.00

17. Feeding Chair

bloom Fresco™ Chrome, Silver Frame/Rosy Pink Seat Pad Set

bloom Fresco™ Chrome, Silver Frame/Pink Seat Pad Set (multiple color combinations available) $650. This color combo was n/a when I needed it.

SKIP*HOP&reg; Tuo Convertible High Chair in Charcoal

SKIP*HOP® Tuo Convertible High Chair in Charcoal $159.99 (What I own, perfect neutral, and multi-function chair)

18. Breast Pump (If you have insurance this is free, just contact your healthcare provider)

Pump, Breast in style Advanced Starter Set $175.00

19. Car Seat Cover

 

JJ Cole® Car Seat Cover in Grey Herringbone $29.99

20. Car Seat Mirror

Baby Backseat Mirror for Car [COMBO w/ 2 Universal Window Shades] – View Infant in Rear Facing Car Seat – Newborn Safety With Secure Headrest Double-Strap $14.99

21. Baby Gym (play mat)

The Emily & Meritt Activity Gym

The Emily & Meritt Activity Gym $99 (I am obsessed with black and white anything)

22. Humidifier

Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Drop Shape Humidifier in White $49.99

23. Lightweight Stroller

Babyzen™ YOYO + Frame in Black (I think every mom’s fave) $449.99

24. Thermometer

Braun Thermometer, No Touch + Forehead (typically used by Doctor’s) $46.99

25.Baby Day Dreamer

Day Dreamer Sleeper Baby Lounger Seat for Infants – Travel Bed – Bassinet Alternative, Ivory. $99.00 (Loooove this product! best investment ever)

I hope you guys have enjoyed my list! please know tat most of these items are just a reference, not a rule of thumb. However, I have carefully curated this list just for you with the very best for the very best (you). Please comment below if you have any questions, suggestions! Be sure to refer to my Instagram  for additional tips! Thank you for trusting me!

Mary

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Introducing Kids to Fireworks

I like a lot of things, and love very few. Fireworks 🎇 I happen to absolutely love! And this year I am ready! You see, I have missed watching live fireworks for the past couple of years. I can go on and on… but the truth is I have had back-to-back pregnancies and I avoid crowed areas while pregnant (potential stampede 😳…I know so dramatic but #facts). The non-pregnant summer between my two pregnancies, I was still paranoid to take a then 9 month old Alegra to see the fireworks.

This time around, my babies are 2.5 yrs old and 9 months. I am ready to take them to experience something I enjoy so much and share that magical moment with them. Selfishly I just want to see their little face light up and capture that moment in a photo and archive that in the album that never gets printed (story of my life). So, since I am a planner and just pretty much very OCD in things… this is what I have done to prepare for a positive “first” time (fingers crossed):

1. Show videos. I have streamed YouTube “fireworks” videos on our TV… this will familiarize them with at least a visual of what to expect… I engage them by pin-pointing colors, shapes and movement of the fireworks being displayed. By creating excitement and anticipation I think it allows a healthy space for a positive experience.

2. Protect their ears. I am a loyal fan of Baby BanZ hearing protection. I use these in loud spaces to keep my kids calm and ears safe. Fireworks can be very very loud, so these will come in super handy. I might pimp my Baby BanZ in red, white and blue to add a patriotic touch 😉.

3. Protect their skin & hair. Most of these live shows are pretty late and obviously outdoors. By dressing my kids in sturdy sneakers, long pants (jeans for added protection in case of a fall), and a light long sleeve (stay away mosquitoes!). Wherever there’s a body of water, grass and it’s summer please prepare for mosquitoes to be present. Whip out the bug 🐜 repellent, and spray prior to attending show all over clothes. I also tie their hair, preferably a bun, but a ponytail is fine. A hair-free face is a great way to experience the fireworks, also the paranoid “Me” thinks of lice potential as well lol.

Most importantly is to to sit back and enjoy time with your family on this great first experience! Fireworks bring out the kid in us all and what better way to experience it than with your kids.

Happy 4th of July!

Mary

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Frequent Flyer Miles… and Marriage

I ‘m not a regular mom, I am a cool stay-at-home mom

My husband and I came to the decision that I would be a stay at home mom for several reasons.

1. We wanted one of us to always be within reach of our children. My previous job would had required me to travel and since he travels then there would have been times where both of us would be absent.

2. Focus on growing our business and venture into new ones… I am a millennial mom after all 🙂 I create opportunities, not sit and wait for them (aaaoooooowwww) lol.

3. I had reached my salary potential, and just did not see the worth in returning. There was much more value in me growing
our businesses and pursuing my dreams while raising our daughters.

So while this decision was great for us, there was still the issue that my husband is still traveling extensively for work. Let’s cut to the chase. Having a traveling partner can take a toll on you, your spouse, the children and the household. A traveling partner leaves a void in the household that when he/she is present that void may still be there because you’re trying to recover from the moments he/she was gone.

What helps us recover and cope with my husband’s travel is realizing how crucial miscommunication (whether small or large) can make everything go to shiz. Curbing your pride to ensure conversations don’t become petty will ensure that when you guys are together it’s enjoyable!

Add value to your “Me time”

Take advantage of the time away by embracing the healthy space allotted which gives you guys a deeper connection when you’re together. Enjoy your social life, and really focus on your personal goals/projects by having the extra time after the kids are asleep…which is what I do. You can catch me doing a late-night workout to literally trying to build an empire at night. Yes, I am dead tired, but frankly having that time is so productive for me, I find a lot of value in this “me time” and when hubs is home, I can dedicate my nights to netflixin’ and chill :).

You might snap…just sayin’

Avoid a tense situation by making assumptions which lead to unnecessary arguments. It happens, I have learned through trial and error. I once snapped at my husband for not calling in time to wish our daughters good night…and frankly I did not even consider that he only had one electric converter port to charge all his devices, laptop, personal phone, work phone, headset etc. So things like this can happen, and at the moment I was ready for war. Yes, calling home is important and no I did not have to snap over this…I can still achieve to understand why he didn’t call when he said he would, by simply changing my tone and perspective. Really, it’s all about how we say things. However, I knew I was under a lot of stress, and coping with multiple demanding priorities and that was basically the cherry on top, that set me off. So trial and error it is, I am much more mindful these days and truly my experience has made me so much more understanding . Former on this you can look up “spouse resentment + travel”.

Outsource time consuming chores

Try to tap out of those cultural expectations of how to behave when your spouse travels (i.e. making 5 course meals… not!). Hubby and I have broken a lot of those traditional/social norms. He understands that life goes on without him around, and therefore we at times have to make decisions on our behalf without consulting… and often it’s me. I take lead in most  home/kid based decisions. For example, I don’t have to wait around for him to make a decision on pest-control or when to schedule a medical exam for the kids. We have very defined roles in our relationship. I manage our businesses from home, he gets updates and when necessary we’ll do a deep-dive. Whenever I am moving a large sum, I send him an FYI; when it comes to his career we also approach that as partners… we discuss the best options for us, and carry on, because at the end of the day we are both working towards one goal in mind… though we arrive from different channels. You get me? Finally, on this topic we also outsource  a lot of those time consuming tasks. By hiring someone for lawn service, pest, home repairs, and even home deep cleaning we buy ourselves much more family time. We also use amazon.com/fresh for our shopping lists when things get a little crazy. It works for us, it can work for you.

Some quick  no-no’s

  • Choose your battles
  • Don’t bring anything up that can wait to be discussed later
  • Be mindful of each other’s tasks and sacrifices
  • Don’t book social gatherings the day after travel
  • Don’t forget to tell how much you guys miss each other
  • Try not to establish a calling schedule since this can be stressful and frustrating if a call is missed. Both work and babies can be unpredictable. Do however leverage other forms of communications like sweet texts or a 5 min FaceTime vs 1 hour call. Quality over quantity.
  • Life goes on. Do not get in the habit of accommodating things to traveling spouse… there are exceptions but don’t over stress yourself.

Now don’t get me wrong, having the experience of traveling domestic and abroad is a great opportunity for your spouse and essentially for you and your family. Just look at the perks…being able to travel with your mate on his/her trips, free upgrades at hotels and airlines when we travel as a family, and the cutest souvenirs from around the world! And while we’re talking (perks), I can selfishly take shortcuts around the house to just cater to the kids and I… pizza or cereal for dinner anyone? 👧🏻👶🏻

Don’t let a traveling spouse put a damper in a temporary situation. Love the right now moments and look forward to them while he/she is away! Remember to be mindful of each other, remember that you both chose this life, and do not forget to remind each other how much love and miss one another. The end.

What did think? comment below. Thank you y hasta luego.

Mary

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Unique and Free Father’s Day Gestures to Make his Week special

Father’s Day…

The day we moms get to show our beloved how thankful we are of their fathering💕. If you haven’t had the chance to think of something unique to give your special guy, consider giving him a week’s long gifting. Think of Secret Santa minus Christmas plus he’ll know who’s giving him the gifts 😳.

Here’s some awesome ideas to consider this week:

1. Breakfast in bed. I know it’s been done a million times, but with the busyness of your household I’m sure the last thing he’s expecting is time carved out to fix him a special breakfast before he starts his day. And who doesn’t love receiving food😋.
2. Love notes expressing how much he means to you and your family. A note everyday left in random places will catch him off guard. Make sure you leave the notes in places he frequents daily (in my case his gym bag…rubber-band a post-it to his water bottle). The kids can also join in on this activity.
3. Kids are asleep. Good. If not, try your best to get them asleep early one evening so you can have a glass of wine and a slow dance with him. Put on his favorite love song (I am thinking Sade 🙂 and take a moment to embrace one another while dancing and enjoying your love story.
4. Run that man a bath. Ahhhh I am jealous of the thought lol. But really… a warm bath, drop some salts in that baby and some essential oils (totally optional) these will help him relax even more. You can you sit by the tub, read him some sports headlines (or whatever your man is into… or totally go Shakespeare on him…or maybe let a “love” or “appreciation” inspired podcast session play for him. Trust me, he will appreciate this surprise very much.
5. Send him Lunch! Yasss! with UberEats you can now send him his favorite dish from almost any restaurant. Send it early enough that he won’t have time to step out on his own. He will be shocked at your gesture, I assure you success. (OK this one is not free, but its pretty awesome!)
6. Make time to watch his favorite movie…even it’s Saw III. He will always remember you made this effort.
7. If you are co-parenting and would like to show appreciation to the father of your child/children, you can skip buying a card, and instead ensure your kid/(s) make a beautiful hand-made card, one that he’ll keep forever.
I promise you that nothing feels better than doing acts of kindness. Your gestures will be so appreciated  and he’ll be so overwhelmed by the daily affirmations of love you’ve been providing all week that you can gift him a banana on Father’s Day and he’ll cry tears of joy. #momwins!!!
Please comment below if you have other ideas we can use this week and post the outcome of which of these you applied! (I am challenging myself to doing all of these! 🙂 Just hope my husband doesn’t read this post :). Keep an eye out for “Mary’s Picks” for gift ideas on Instagram.
Cheers,
Mary