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Things to do With Your Teen in NYC

Things to do With Your Teen in NYC

The plan was to pick my son up from college in Connecticut, take the train to NYC and enjoy a day and a half in the city before flying home. But mild panic ensued…what to do with your teen in NYC? You know how it is. You’ve gotta keep the interest going or you’ll lose them to their phone in a New York minute!

NYC Doesn’t Have to be Expensive.

Fortunately, there’s so much to do in NYC (that’s cheap or free) that you should never have a dull moment. We covered a lot of territory, eight miles on Saturday alone ensured my teen was cooked by the end of the day (so bring your walking shoes). Good news is all of the recommendations below have my 18-year old’s thumbs-up approval.

Eat at neighborhood restaurants.

Tourist attractions tend to be loud, expensive, and rarely good. We found a local Japanese restaurant our first night that was filled with folks winding down from the work week. Sushi Tsushima served up fresh fish, quick service and reasonable prices. We could even hear each other without yelling which is always a bonus in my book.

Use the Subway.

Next morning we loaded up our MTA cards and jumped on the number 7 subway to check out Hudson Yards. The Hudson Yards subway station itself is a marvel of clean, spacious modernity. Walk past the ubiquitous stalls selling buttons and felafel and you are greeted with a few architectural stunners, like this one. Vessel in the Public Square is super cool looking, but if you want to walk around on it get your tickets online in advance.

Vessel at Hudson Yards NYC

Vessel at Hudson Yards is Instagram-worthy

Hudson Yards is full of the usual suspects – fast fashion, some high end retailers, but there was one shop that captured my teen’s attention – b8ta. The shop exists to showcase the products of innovators who only have one item in production and need a place to connect with shoppers IRL. Each invention was accompanied by an iPad that explained the product and allowed you to buy it with a click. There were quite a few cool items at b8ta and my teen enjoyed browsing the shop.

b8ta is an interesting shop at Hudson Yards NYC

A shop a teen can love

Public art is free.

NYC is full of public art. So is Hudson Yards.This one invited the public to leave a message or draw a picture.  It’s worth walking through the building to check it all out. We also walked over to The Shed (part of the Hudson Yards complex) and saw a free exhibit there.

Interactive public art at Hudson Yards NYC

All ages get in on the action at this interactive wall

Next we tried Snark Park, which is billed as “a multi-faceted exhibition space that will house a series of immersive art installations”. At $17 a person I was expecting a pretty cool experience. It wasn’t nearly as large as we had expected and after about 15 minutes we were done. I think the current exhibit might be better suited to little kids who can get lost in the layers of fabric. We didn’t think it was worth the price but future exhibits might be.

Snark Park at Hudson Yards NYC

Now you see him, now you don’t

Eventually we got hungry. We wanted to try the Jose Andres’ Spanish Market but it didn’t open until 3 pm. So we went upstairs to Belcampo for the most expensive burgers and fries I have ever bought. But oh, those fries! We ordered the duck fat fries and the beef tallow fries. Fortunately for me, he liked the beef tallow best, because I loved those duck fat fries. Super crispy, full of flavor and salted just right. And if you feel the need to eat something healthy, the bone broth on tap is just the ticket.

Bone Broth on tap at Belcampo in Hudson Yards NYC

Never seen this before!

NYC is made for walking.

We took the subway uptown to 56th St. and headed to Central Park. It was one of those glorious spring days where everything is green, the tulips are in full bloom and everyone in NYC is outside walking around. We definitely worked off our high-calorie lunch as we headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Students attending college in NY, NJ and CT can pay what they want at the Met (and he let me as the parent do the same!).

My son and husband had recently visited the Met and participated in a Museum Hack tour called Un-Highlights @ the Met. He remembered it so well that he took me all over the museum and told me fascinating trivia about works of art. This “renegade tour” gave my son a very different experience of what a museum has to offer and he dug it.

We highly recommend SPYSCAPE.

Sunday morning was grey and wet and I needed to find something to do indoors pronto. I stumbled upon SPYSCAPE and it was a winner. We got the extra tickets for the current James Bond exhibition and, as big fans, it was a blast.

James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 at SPYSCAPE museum

Yes, this is the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger and Spectre!

From the moment you step onto the elevator, which is as big as a room, you know you’re going to have fun. When you first check in they place an RFID wristband on your arm. As you go through the museum, you stop at electronic kiosks and answer questions about yourself, solve puzzles, work through encryption challenges and more. The displays cover spy craft from WWII through the present. When you finish the tour you enter a room that analyzes all the data it has collected on you and tells you what kind of spy you should be. The museum is completely immersive so it never gets boring. Perfect for teens.

There’s never a reason for a teen to be bored in NYC. We weren’t in the city very long, but we had a great time.

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Where to Eat During a Business Trip to Mexico City

Where to Eat During a Business Trip to Mexico City

If you’re going to Mexico City on business, you probably won’t be doing a lot of sightseeing. Getting around during the week is a precisely timed exercise aimed at avoiding traffic. So while you may not see many sights, you will do plenty of eating and drinking. During a recent business trip I spent almost the entire time in four restaurants in 24 hours. It was a lesson in how business is done in Mexico, and fortunately, it was a delicious one.

We flew direct out of Tijuana, which is a breeze now with the Cross Border Xpress(CBX). Parked the car in long term parking ($15-20 a night) and we were through customs and at the gate in 15 minutes. It was an outstanding experience that I hope more people departing from So. California will try.

Crossing the border at the Cross Border Xpress is easy

Take one step and you’re in a new country!

Eat at the neighborhood restaurants.

There are many famous, destination restaurants in Mexico City like Pujol, and if you have the presence of mind to get a reservation, well lucky you! Our trip was being directed by a local, so we trusted that he would point us in the right direction. He did not let us down.

After landing, our host directed us to a charming restaurant in Polanco called Emilio for a late lunch. We ordered a perfect ceviche, little rounds of foie gras with fresh fig, and what we thought was going to be a duck taco, but was more like a duck egg roll with a tangy-sweet sauce. Surprising and delicious.

Foie Gras at Emilio in Mexico City.

Little bites of Foie Gras? Yes, please.

Duck tacos at Emilio in Mexico City.

Have you ever seen duck tacos like these?

Perhaps even more delightful than the food was the environment. We sat on the open patio and the people watching was superb. Emilio’s is directly across the street from Lincoln Park (yes, there is a statue of Lincoln there). It’s a beautiful green beltway with statues and water features. Musicians stand in front of the patio and play loudly for pesos, but they moved on after five minutes or so. Emilio’s was full of locals and an excellent introduction to where to eat during a business trip in Mexico City.

Live Aqua Hotel in Mexico City

The lobby at Live Aqua is a modern stunner.

Our host showed up as we were finishing and had a quick café. Then we were off to our hotel, the gorgeous Hotel Live Aqua located in Bosques de las Lomas. A little off the beaten path, he had recommended the hotel since it was close to his office. It exceeded my expectations, in design, room comfort and service.

We left our bags and walked through the adjacent mall, ending our jaunt at Costa Guadiana. He promptly ordered tequila for the table. The second meal had begun and we had barely finished digesting our first.

But, as is done in Mexico, we sipped our tequila (El Aguila, a dangerously smooth sipping tequila) and chatted for quite a long while. We eventually ordered a few small plates, including a spectacularly colored and flavored cochinta pibil appetizer. We walked back to our hotel and had an excellent night’s sleep.

Pre-dinner tequila in Mexico City.

Now this is how you start a proper meal in Mexico City.

The next day, after a few hours of work, we went to one of our host’s favorite restaurants, Loma Linda. We headed up to the second floor patio and it was buzzing. Mind you it was already 2 pm, but lunch was really just happening in earnest at that hour. It was clear that lots of business was being conducted here. Loma Linda has five locations in the city and several are in the heart of the business district.

Lunch started with beers and wine (we had a lovely red from Adobe Guadalupe, one of our favorite wineries in Valle de Guadalupe). Have you ever heard of Jugo de Carne (meat juice)? I had not and though I was a little hesitant it was fantastic. It’s a very rich beef broth, thick but without any chunks in it. It’s served with slices of lime, Worcestershire sauce and steak sauce. A little squirt of lime was all it needed and I believe it was created to soothe what ails you.

Our waiter brought a tray of raw meat to the table and our host selected three cuts. The food was all served family style, including guacamole, pork tacos, incredibly flavorful corn and crispy, puffy small potatoes (need I say more?). The meat arrived on a smoking hot plancha that was placed in the center of the table and was accompanied by homemade corn tortillas and various salsas.

The level of service in Mexico City is something to behold.

From the time we sat at our table to being served drinks and our soup was about 12 minutes. There is such a high level of staff to customers that they can really deliver on service.

At the end of our meal, I tried a shaken Carajill – a coffee cocktail enhanced with Licor 43. I don’t know how I’ve missed this treat considering all the times I have been to Mexico, but I am so happy to have discovered it.

Lunch lasted about 3 hours. We went back to the office for some more  work and then took a quick break before heading out to dinner. I couldn’t believe it, but we were going to experience four restaurants in Mexico City within about 24 hours.

Public Art in business office in Mexico City.

Oh, just some incredible art in the lobby of a business office.

Dinner starts late in Mexico City.

We wanted to see at least a little of the city so we drove into the center of town to a restaurant called Blanco Colima in the Roma section. The whole area is beautiful, but as you can see, the historic nature of the building made this a very special place.

Blanco Colima restaurant in the Roma district of Mexico City.

The exterior of Blanco Colima is historic but the interior is very modern.

Once again I started with El Aguila, which worried me as I was already starting to get used to the idea that this was the correct way to begin a meal. Drinking while conducting business is par for the course in Mexico City, like so much of Europe.

We ordered a variety of hot and cold small plates and there were a couple of real standouts (I couldn’t get great photos as the restaurant was so dark). A tiradito of pulpo was the flavor profile I so love in Mexican food. They know how to create the perfect balance of savory, sweet, salt and acid in a dish.

But the dish that bowled over the entire table was dessert.

Imagine a small cake, not too sweet, with a slightly caramelized top crust, filled with Manchego cheese. Oh, but that’s not all. It was served on a membrillo sauce (quince paste) with a perfect quenelle of guava ice cream on the side. We all wanted another, but couldn’t bring ourselves to order it after all the food we had eaten.

I would gladly eat at four restaurants in Mexico City in 24 hours again. The variety of choices is mind boggling. You don’t have to worry about where to eat during a business trip to Mexico City. You just have to worry about having enough time to digest and sleep before the next delicious meal.

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What to Do in Helsinki and Everything Else You Need to Know

What to Do in Helsinki and Everything Else You Need to Know

If you are wondering what to do in Helsinki, this post will blow you away. There’s so much to see, do, and eat in this charming European city. Known for it’s fabulous winter sports areas and refreshing summer temperatures, this Nordic country is a good bet when looking for an off-the-beaten path, quirky, and breathtakingly beautiful city to visit.

Helsinki is full of surprises…delicious, fun, interesting surprises. It boasts an urban vibe while also being crazy friendly. It is sleek, yet warm, full of function as well as tradition. I consider myself honored to have experienced this wonderful Finnish city. And I hope you get to experience it too!

Amos Rex Museum skylights

The skylights of underground Amos Rex Museum pop up at street level in unusual shapes.

What to do in Helsinki

Here’s everything you need to know regarding what to do in Helsinki…and everything else.

I didn’t know much about Helsinki in particular and Finland in general before I visited. Honestly, that’s half the fun of travel, experiencing the most fascinating things you never knew existed. Helsinki blew my mind with it’s rich history, awe-inspiring architecture, and variety of tourist destinations. Here’s a few I really enjoyed.

Amos Rex

Helsinki is filled to the brim with interesting art, like the collection at Amos Rex Museum, and it’s all housed in immaculate, intriguing buildings. The curving mountainous skylights at the Amos Rex Museum are breathtakingly beautiful, but also functional as they provide light to the museum below. This museum houses 20th-century and contemporary art collections and exhibitions. It just opened last year but has quickly become a tourist hotspot. Over 10,000 people visited within the first few weeks it was open! I can see why!

When I was here. there were two amazing exhibitions. There was a collection on display by the famous painter Magritte, and it was amazing. Only thing missing was his most famous painting, Son of Man (man wearing a bowler hat with a green apple in front of his face).

However, the showstopper for me was Floating Monolith, by Studio Drift. A gigantic block that looked like concrete literally floated in the middle of the gallery, untethered and without any visible wires. It defied logic, and was so very cool to see in real life.

Floating cube Amos Rex Museum, Helsinki Finland

This floating cube defies logic, gravity and physics. Or it’s a fantastic ruse.


Want to go back in Nordic history? Then make sure you visit World Heritage Site Suomenlinna. It is an 18th-century military sea fortress turned nature area, spread across several islands linked together by bridges. Suomenlinna is filled with ancient-looking cobblestone walkways and centuries-old artillery and defensive walls. Mixed in are modern touches like a local micro-brewery and several restaurants. Walking trails cross rambling park land and waterways with bridges abound.  Popular sights include the King’s Gate drawbridge and Suomenlinna Museum, which tells the story of Finland’s military history.

During the summer, Suomenlinna is a huge hit with locals. Families, lovers and everyone in between all swarm to the island for picnics and scenery. When we visited it was relatively quiet, but crowds gather when the weather warms. Trees blossom, flowers spring up, grass greens and locals love it. You will too.

Suomenlinna Helsinki Finland winter

Suomenlinna is very important in the history of Finland, from the time the country was part of Sweden and then Russia before its independence.

Oodi Central Library

A library is a tourist attraction? Uh…yup! The brand new Oodi Central Library in Helsinki is a masterpiece! Honestly when it was suggested we visit the library, I rolled my eyes anticipating extreme boredom. Quite the contrary. Never have I seen a library more innovative, inviting, and thoughtfully-designed.

Library Oodi, Helsinki Finland

Opened less than two years ago, Oodi is a masterpiece inside and out.

Oodi was warm and inviting and lives up to its goal of being the free, open-to-all “living room” of Helsinki. It’s architecturally interesting, lively and filled with people. No one was stage whispering “Shhh!” in here! I totally could have hung out there all day. It has two coffee bars, a cafe, meeting rooms, kids play area, recording studios, 3D printers, sewing machines and tons of places to relax. (Oh, there are books there too I’m told.)  Locals can access all of this and more with just their library card.

Library Oodi top floor interior, Helsinki Finland

The interior top floor of Library Oodi slopes upwards, giving views of unusual perspective.

Loyly Helsinki Sauna

There are something like 2 million saunas in Finland, and there are only 5 million people in the country! Finns adore their saunas! If you visit this tremendous country, it’s mandatory to check out at least one of their saunas. When I was in Helskini, I visited an uber-cool and luxurious sauna, Loyly Helsinki. It seriously rivaled a health club. Their public saunas fit about 20 people each. They are co-ed and swimsuits are required. (Thank God.)

Loyly sauna entrance Helsinki Finland

Loyly sauna is positioned right at the water’s edge, with striking architecture.

I tried both the smoke and regular sauna and both were HOT. So hot that I even dunked into the freezing Baltic Sea to cool off…3 times! It was unbelievably cold AND just the ticket after baking in the sauna. The whole experience was surprisingly refreshing. Once again travel expanded my horizons.

Loyly Sauna ocean plunge, Baltic Sea, Helsinki Finland

After baking in the sauna at Loyly, guests are encouraged to dunk in the freezing cold Baltic Sea.

Kids activities

Helsinki can be a fantastic family destination, with a variety of things to do that will keep the kids occupied and happy:

  • Helsinki Zoo: Situated on an island, Helsinki Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the world. (Established in 1889.) It boasts 150 animal species.
  • Sea Life: This Aquarium offers lots of colorful fish species and even sharks. There’s also an ocean tunnel at Sea Life where you can walk below the sharks…if you dare.
  • Amusement Park Linnanmäki: Unlike amusement parks in the US, the entrance to the park is free of charge. Linnanmäki was opened in 1950 and still has a vintage feel. The most popular ride is the wooden rollercoaster from 1951. Would you ride it? Uh, I’m OK with missing that one I think!

How to get to Helsinki: Finnair

Look, there are probably a lot of options to get to Helsinki from the US. However, the luxurious personal service I experienced on the official airline of Finland, Finnair, was pretty darn special. Finnair recently invested heavily in its fleet by adding 13 new Airbus A350 wide-body jets over the last few years. And they also added a direct flight from LAX to Helsinki. And I had the good fortune of being  on the inaugural flight between these two amazingly different destinations. It’s a 10.5 hour flight which goes over the North Pole, Greenland (that is icy) and Iceland (that is green) all the way to Finland. If you can splurge on Business Class, the lay flat seats are like a little cocoon of heaven.

Finnair inflight map to Helsinki

Flying on Finnair to Helsinki was a dream, direct from LAX and so comfortable.

When to go to Helsinki: Helsinki weather in Spring won’t freeze you to death

I visited Helsinki in April and thought it was the perfect time to go. It was coldish but not freezing. Typically, in April Helsinki weather averages to be about 39 degrees. Winter tends to last through mid-May. Coming from LA, the Helsinki weather was fun and different and made me appreciate the sun and warmth back home. It was novel to see the last remnants of snow in a couple of shady spots. Honestly, it was all rather lovely. One day was even legit Spring-like.

You will need to pack a heavy coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. It can get chilly year round, especially at night. You could go in summer when the average temperature reaches a balmy 65 degrees, but it’s crowded and can get pricey. The best part of going in Spring was that there were almost no crowds. By the way, it also gets crowded in winter because these hearty Scandinavian folks love their outdoor snow sports.

What to eat in Helsinki: Everything

I enjoy good food, so I was honestly very worried about what I would eat in Finland. Was every meal going to be like the food in Ikea? Not always. (Fun fact, Finland used to be part of Sweden so the food does seem kind of similar). My meals were all really delicious. If you want smoked fish and gamey reindeer meat, you can definitely find it. But if you want contemporary cuisine and international restaurants, you can find that too.

Helsinki Finland pastry shop

The Finns do a fantastic job with pastries, including these traditional berry-topped numbers.

I ate in some swanky restaurants and was definitely impressed with each of my meals. I did not go hungry! One thing I couldn’t make myself try is the Finland favorite, salmon soup. It looked as disgusting as it sounds. I could not do it. You find it EVERYWHERE though and the Finns adore that stuff. Next time I come to Helsinki maybe I’ll be brave enough to try it. Maybe.

steak tartare, Restaurant Emo, Helsinki Finland

Delicious steak tartare from Restaurant Emo in Helsinki – every dish here was out of this world.

The top restaurants I experienced:

  1. Restaurant Emo is located in the middle of the city center. It is described as “modern European with a Nordic twist”. Delicious.
  2. Story is a restaurant/café found in the Old Market Hall in Helsinki. It offers traditional market fare, incorporating the ingredients found at the market and nearby sea.
  3. La Maison is exactly what you think it is: a charming French bistro. It’s the kind of place that makes you remember you are in Europe.
Cafe Maison seafood salad, Helsinki Finland

This fresh seafood salad at Cafe Maison was created from 100% locally raised ingredients.

Where to stay in Helsinki: Hotel Katajonkka

I stayed in a Helsinki prison. No really. I did! The Hotel Katajanokka was once the Helsinki County Prison, dating back to the 1800’s. Prisoners were still being held here as late as 2002. You’d never know that by looking at this magnificent hotel though. Look for a post soon on this modern, service-orientated hotel.

Hotel Katajanokka interior hallway Helsinki Finland

The Hotel Katajanokka in Helsinki used to be a prison – until 2002!

Bottom line

If Helsinki is not on your bucket list of places to visit, it should be. It’s a city designed to welcome visitors. Don’t let the fickle Helsinki weather scare you away! Open and friendly, the Finns love to show off their jewel on the Baltic Sea.

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1944 Valedictorian Speech Eerily Relevant Today

1944 Valedictorian Speech Eerily Relevant Today

My 92 year-old Pop was Willows High School Valedictorian in 1944 (among other cool things, but that’s another blog post). He just passed away recently, and my brother and were sorting out some of his memorabilia. During this process, we came across his Valedictorian Speech. His words were both poignant and relevant to many of the world’s issues and concerns today.

A handsome devil at 18 – Pop’s senior portrait.

It’s incredible to think that young Dean Bailey would graduate from high school and immediately volunteer to join the US Army. And fight in World War II. At age 18. With our oldest daughter soon to be 18, that just blows my mind. Little did he know his valedictorian speech would be relevant today in 2019.

Valedictorian Speech Relevant Today

Rather than me try to paraphrase, here it is in it’s entirety.

Friends and Fellow Students:

In past years the Valedictorian of the Graduating Class might have spoken about how those going out from such an occasion as this were to take their place in the nation’s industry. Or how some would continue their education among the lines of their individual interests. Today, individual interests are secondary.

Almost over night our country has decreed that boys are now men, and girls are now women. We are called upon to do our part in a cause that stands before us both as a great challenge and a great opportunity for service. We have attended high school as boys but we graduate now as men, many of whom are soon to train for military service. High school girls are quickly becoming women – women who are expected to carry on many types of work that would release men for fighting positions. In this critical situation, the youth of American can be relied upon to fulfill every expectation.

(OK, a little sexist but it was 1944.)

Pop spent more time on a boat in the US Army than his best friend Bob, who enlisted in the Navy.

Democratic Principles

If our way of life is to survive, if our democratic principles are to continue as a basis for our nation’s government, then we must bring this war to a conclusive end. We must win an unconditional surrender from our enemies so that we can build a better world free from tyranny and united with closer and friendlier relations. We must not only win this war, but win our peace also be preparing for it now as well as after the war.

Good Leadership

A successful outcome to these preparations requires good leadership. Our leaders in political and community life must be capable, intelligent and honest, worthy of the faith of the people. It is their business to guard the interests of the country that makes it possible for us to live the way we want to live. Leaders can only reflect the characteristics of those who choose them to lead.

If our leaders are to be capable, intelligent and honest, then these characteristics must prevail in us, the voters.

This fact places the responsibility first on the independent citizen. He will be you and I. It is now more than ever our obligation to inform ourselves of the problems that confront our government and our country and come to an understanding on them, realizing that the force of the nation can merely be the combination of forces of all the citizens of the nation.

We must lay aside our individual interests until we have ridden the world of this menace that threatens our very civilization. We cannot win this war as a people pulling against each other, each struggling for our own benefits. These personal ideals are the things we are fighting for, the right to work for what we want, to do as we wish within the limitations of the law. But until this war is over, we have to sacrifice these privileges so that we can work together, as one people united for freedom.

Even now it seems that the light of victory is in sight, but we dare not slacken our pace. The war is yet to be won. The hardest battles are still ahead of us. It is the duty of the people here, on the home front, to stand fast and sacrifice graciously so that the boys over there can come home as quickly as possible, safely and victoriously.

Pop saw some serious combat on Okinawa, and would never ever talk about it.

Called to Service

At best, we will have our hands full for a long time to come. Many of us who are not yet in uniform will be called into service soon, and we will be ready. Those of us who are not suitable for military or naval service or who re required for farms and production lines here at home will have to be ready too – ready for more sacrifices, more work, harder work, more sorrow even, and heartache.

But if each person has within his heart the conviction that we can make this war the war to end all wars, that we can have a prolonged peace, then of this we may be certain. That the things we love and live for will be preserved for our children and their children after them, They they will enjoy these things because of us and because of what we are doing. That the day will come when we can once again take up the instruments of peace, proud in the consciousness that we did not stumble or falter when the job was before us.

After the War, Pop shipped home to see his mom in Willows, CA.

Memories for Our Children

Everyone should have his reasons for fighting in this war. I have mine. I fight because of my memories – the fun we used to have when we were kids. The football games I’ve played in, sprinting the last stretch in the mile, camping in the mountains with the Boy Scouts. Fishing in the old “Catfish Hole”, my first real date, walking in the rain, listing to good music. Mother, and how she used to tuck me into bed. If people like you and like me do not fight for memories such as these, our children may never experience them. And the world of tomorrow would be a cruel one, indeed, without some pleasant memories of the past.

In closing, I wish to congratulate you, my classmates, on your many outstanding achievements of the past four years. As you go out into this world of today, I hope you will realize that in your hands, my young fellow students, lies the future of our country.

L. Dean Bailey, Willows High School Valedictorian, Class of 1944


Returning home, Pop looks older and a bit more world-weary.

What a cool guy, my Pop, and so eloquent at such a tender young age. Innocence forever lost, but so much gained in the process. Thank you Pop, and thanks to all the men and women who gave everything to ensure our freedom, 75 years ago.

And those that serve our country today.



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Equipping Your College Kids’ Medicine Chest

Equipping Your College Kids’ Medicine Chest

This post was sponsored by College Student First Aid Kit, but honestly we’d write about it anyway because it’s so darn cool.

Although it might seem early to be thinking about the start of the school year in the Fall, a lot of kids are graduating soon. Yikes! Sophia and Ava have a bunch of friends who are seniors, soon to walk in their high school graduation ceremonies. These kids (mostly their parents really) are obsessively making lists upon lists of all the things they need to equip their college dorms. But rarely do they think about the medicine chest, or a college student first aid kit for their college-bound kid.

It seems like something a parent might not think about. In the hubbub of getting ready, packing up necessities, clothes, school supplies and such, a college student first aid kit may not be on the forefront. Until it’s needed, anyway.

Created by a mother of 2 college students, the College Student First Aid Kit is the ideal antidote for clueless college kids.

man with College Student First Aid Kit

Ordering from the website was easy, and my College Student First Aid Kit arrived at my door.

College Student First Aid Kit

To be honest I would not have thought about this either, but it makes perfect sense. A college-bound kid, particularly a freshman on their own for the first time, may not know how to fully care for themselves. They’ve been all cushy at home, surrounded by caring family members and friends. When they get sick or hurt, there is a village of loved ones nearby to help.

Move away to college and live in a dorm, and all of a sudden that support system is gone. When that college student gets sick, they are left hanging on to dim memories of treatments their parents might have administered back home.

Like a portable medicine chest, the College Student First Aid Kit is packed full of first aid supplies and remedies. After all, the creator of this kit is a Certified Nurse Practitioner and mom.

College Student First Aid Kit

Compact and organized, the College Student First Aid Kit is easy store for ready use.

Packed Full of Goodness

We’ve got the Premium Plus First Aid Kit ($89.95). As I looked through the well-stocked and very organized kit, I was impressed with how much thought it’s creator, Beth Palmer Stewart, put into each chosen item.

Beth thought about everything. It seems that when her own kids were going to college, she went looking for a first aid kit to send along with them and she couldn’t find one. She painstakingly researched all the things a college student would need in medications and supplies. Sourcing items carefully, she selected all the best items based on her research.

fully stocked First Aid Kit

In case of college dorm craziness, or zombie apocalypse, this kit will help students cope.

Our Premium Plus First Aid Kit has cold medicine, cough drops, a thermometer, eye drops, ear drops, anti-itch cream and more. It also includes a hangover kit, because let’s face it. These kids are college students, and may on very rare occasions have a drink. Or two.

The Premium Plus First Aid Kit sells for $89.95, and the Premium First Aid Kit is priced at $74.95. There is also a more compact, portable First Aid Travel Kit for the car, luggage or sports, which is priced at $64.95.

(I wish this had been around when I was a college freshman. It would have come in very handy!)

girl with portable First Aid Kit

Sophia is happy to know there is a thermometer in the kit as well.

First Aid Essentials

All kidding aside, I honestly think if one of our girls injured themselves they would not be prepared. If we did not buy them all the essentials, pack it up and send it with them in a box, our kids would be clueless.

The College Student First Aid Kit also contains bandages, gauze, antiseptic, bandaids and other stuff for wound care. It parents had to buy all this stuff individually and try to cobble this kit together ourselves, we’d spend a bloody fortune. (Pun intended.) This kit saves both time and money!

I mean, how many of us parents would run around town to buy comforters and fancy bedding for our kids’ dorm rooms. How about dorm room decor that will get trashed by Christmas, or plants that will die before the Fall Semester is half way through?

girl with box of eye drops

They’ve thought of everything to put in this kit – including eye drops!

This College Student First Aid Kit is a good investment in making sure my kid makes it to class in one piece. With all that money we’ll be paying for four (or five) years of college, we want to ensure they make it to classes.

Investing in our kids health and safety suddenly seems like an even higher priority!

First aid kit stocked full

This kit is stocked full of all the essentials.

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Office Depot is Helping Us Keep Organized

Office Depot is Helping Us Keep Organized

Tracking PixelOffice Depot sponsored this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

You already know we travel a lot. I mean A LOT. It’s our passion and our business. In order to do a good job creating content about travel and lifestyle, we have to travel and live! In the course of doing just that, we amass a great deal of information in all sorts of random forms. Thank goodness there is technology from Office Depot and HP like the HP OfficeJet Pro that helps keep us organized. (Well, to be honest Triton is already super organized. Jon, not so much.)

man with brochures and laptop at table

It’s pretty darn cool what home printers will do now. The HP OfficeJet Pro 9015, that Office Depot provided us to try out, is just the ticket for us, because it prints, copies, scans and faxes all-in-one.

Okay, so maybe I’m the one that really needs organizing. On all these trips to far off lands, I gather up all sorts of great tidbits of information. It can’t all stay in my head as much as I would like. Without a photographic memory, I resort to making notes on my phone, and jotting down details on random pieces of paper. I collect lots and lots of brochures, catalogs and other documents to help me remember all the cool things we’ve seen.

And then I come home with messy file folders packed full of stuff.

HP Helps Keep Us Organized

I’ve really needed a solution to digitize and store all this stuff I’ve gathered. For example, we just went on a trip for Spring Break to San Francisco and Mendocino. We stayed in three different hotels: The Clift Sonesta Royal Hotel in San Francisco, and the Brewery Gulch Inn and Hill House in Mendocino. We were loaned an amazing truck to drive on the trip. We visited tons of cool places, including The Presidio San Francisco and the Walt Disney Family Museum. In the Mendocino area, we rode on the Skunk Train, pedaled on rail bikes, visited the Botanical Gardens and more.

In all of those places, I listened to tour guides, paid attention to the details, and wrote down all the pertinent data I thought was most interesting. If they had written documents or brochures I could grab, I grabbed them. Hungry for all the details to share with our audiences, I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. Since I knew we would want to write about this trip very soon after leaving, I needed to get the facts right for my stories.

Back at home, I have a file folder full of all this good stuff. In fact, this happens on every trip – I come home with tons of papers. And those file folders are really starting to stack up.

The King of Scanning

Now that I’ve completed the super-easy set up of the HP OfficeJet Pro in our home office, I am the King of Scanning. I’ve been going through all my folders from the past several months of trips and scanning all the paper to digitize everything I need to keep. The HP OfficeJet Pro has wireless networking, so it connects via self-healing Wi-Fi directly to my laptop and mobile devices. Now I have all this data with me, and my office is on the go!

Features of the HP OfficeJet Pro include:

  • Color print, copy, scan, fax all in one device
  • Wireless and wired networking for ease in printing
  • Time-saving Smart Tasks shortcuts
  • Print & scan from anywhere
  • Self-healing Wi-Fi
  • Best-in-class security
  • Voice-enabled printing
  • Auto 2-sided document feeder

If you operate a small business like 2DadsWithBaggage, or even have organizational challenges with your home filing systems like me, we highly recommend the HP OfficeJet Pro. You can check out all the product details here.

Office Anywhere

Now that I don’t have to lug any paper files around and I’ve scanned it all to digital files, I can work from anywhere. The other day I woke up, ran to the gym for a quick work-out and then dropped into a coffee house with my laptop for a little catch up. While sipping my latte, I accessed my scanned documents sent from my HP OfficeJet Pro and went to work on my next travel story.

Another latte and an apricot-ginger scone later (delicious, by the way) I had my story done and ready for proofing! I’m kind of old-school that way. I still like to proof my work from a hard copy, so I print the story out so I can see what it looks like on paper. From the coffee house, I am now able to send the document to print on the HP OfficeJet Pro in my home office. It was waiting for me when I returned home. Just. Like. That.

For bigger print jobs, tech services and more, we can turn to Office Depot’s Workonomy™ Business Services. Office Depot also has a partnership with to bring business owners like me better, faster and cheaper solutions. You can view more information on Office Depot’s collaboration with Alibaba here.

Just Call Me Organized

Now that I’ve got the new HP OfficeJet Pro for scanning, digitizing and storing all my documents from travel, I’m so much more efficient and productive. All my travel notes are in one place, filed digitally under the name of that destination or trip.

What am I going to do with all this extra time I have saved, you ask? Travel more, of course!


Office Depot sponsored this post, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.



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7 Road Trip Snacks and Tips That Will Make You Want to Drive Everywhere

7 Road Trip Snacks and Tips That Will Make You Want to Drive Everywhere

Road trip snacks are the most important things to pack for your next trip with kids. In many ways, they are more important than phone chargers, swim suits and hotel reservations. Seriously. They can make it break your trip!

Ever since our girls were teeny tiny, we packed them up for road trips. Our sojourns to Palm Springs each year are legendary (if only to us). The number one rule I’ve learned is this: You can never have too much food. NEVER.

If you have the time, pack a full meal for everyone (including adults) so you can be sure to have a healthy, satisfying meal on the road. This saves a ton of money too! For families with older kids, put them in charge. One less thing for you to do and one less thing for them to complain about. (Hopefully…)

farmers market plums and apricots

Whole fresh fruit makes a great snack for the road.

Road trip snacks need to walk that difficult balance between being fun so the kids will eat them and being healthy to make sure kids still get the nutrients they need, even on vacation. If you have picky opinionated kids like mine, you have to get pretty savvy about what you pack. Don’t worry though, I am here to help!

On a recent road trip in Northern California, we drove from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mendocino in a sweet Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ. The ride was smooth, the truck was fully equipped with all the bells and whistle, and everyone was even happier because of the SNACKS.

family with Chevrolet Silverado

Smiles on our faces because we brought snacks on this road trip.

Check out the road trip snacks I love for families, as well as some of my favorite tips to help you survive your next family road trip!

7 Road Trip Snacks and Tips for Families

1.    Eat fresh food

The best road trip snacks are the ones your kids eat. This means don’t go crazy trying to introduce a kiwi and mango fruit salad if your kids haven’t been exposed to tropical fruit. Keep it simple. Whole fruit like apples and pears are great options. Wrap each one individually to keep it clean. Triton loves a fresh juicy orange to curb his snack attacks on the road. Berries are also a great choice. Just be sure to take the time to put them in individual containers, and not bags. No one is going to eat smushed blueberries. Skip bananas as they tend to brown quickly and get mushy. Also, grapes can be a choking hazard so if you have little ones, so save them for when you stop for a meal.

bag of Cuties mandarin oranges

Sometimes we bring along a bag of Cuties on road trips, and they always go fast.

2.    Stock up on squeezable snacks.

Especially for families with elementary school-aged kids or younger, squeezable apple sauce or yogurt packets are a fantastic invention. They aren’t messy…so yay for that. Even more important though, they are healthy, delicious and travel well. A new favorite of our road trip snacks are the protein-dense Slammers Snacks, which are like portable fruit smoothies without the spills.

3.    Limit liquid to a juice box.

My favorite thing about juice boxes is that you can control how much liquid your child is taking in. Some kids have bladders that size of a pea and if you don’t want to pull over every 30 minutes, you probably don’t want to give them a giant water bottle or super-size fountain drink. Go for the 100% juice brands. (We liked Juicy Juice when the girls were younger.) Older kids can get the 6oz bottles if they balk at a juice box. Limiting liquids in the two or three hours preceding the trip also helps. We try to walk that fine line between making sure the kids don’t get dehydrated ,while also trying to reduce the potty breaks as much as possible.

Check out 3 things I absolutely must have on every road trip.

4.    Buy individually packed snacks.

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of pre-packaged, individual snacks like chips, crackers and cookies. However as road trip snacks go, these are some of the best. They are portioned out so no one complains about someone eating “ALL” of the chips and kids don’t go crazy munching all your food within the first hour. Have fun with it. Buy the treats your kids never get at home. Splurge on the variety pack of chips from Costco and let them check out new flavors. And get something you like too! I’ve always got a stock of energy bars and trail mix in the car for road trips.

Creminelli salami and cheese snack packs

Snack packs make an easy solution for road trips.

5.    Engage the help of older kids.

If you are so lucky to be traveling with more than one child, give the older ones some responsibility for helping the little ones. I find this knocks out two birds with one stone! Helping to entertain, open food packages, or find the lost iPhone charger are all things tweens and teens are good at. Giving older children responsibility can give them a sense of pride and accomplishment when you reach your destination. If that’s not enough, $5 goes a long way too…or so I’m told.

6.    Prepare your road trip snacks the night before.

Do not wait until the last minute to put together your road trip snacks. When traveling with kids, there’s too many other things to think about when you’re packing up and trying to hit the road. If you’re making sandwiches, wrap them individually. Portion out cookies or other treats into containers for each child. For Sophia, that would be fish-shaped cheddar crackers, and spicy rolled tortilla chips for Ava. Freeze water bottles overnight and use them to keep a cooler cold. Take as much off your plate the night before the big road trip as you can. You’ll be glad you did!

Doritos, almonds and cheese snacks

Sometimes it’s okay to splurge on slightly unhealthy treats too.

7.    Pack your patience.

Road trips are harder on the parents than they are on the kids.  I mean, let’s face it – family travel can be stressful. Try to go into each trip with a good intention and concentrate on being patient with your kids, your partner (if you have one) and other drivers as well. Know ahead of time that you will probably run into traffic. You may have to stop twice in one hour because your 5-year-old swore she didn’t have to go at the first stop. You may drop a bottle of orange juice in your lap. Just take advice from Elsa and let it go. Concentrate on having fun and making memories instead!

colorful macarons

One of our kids’ favorite treats is macarons like this colorful sandwich cookies.

The bottom line with road trip snacks is that you can never, ever have too many of them when you’re traveling with kids. Pack way more snacks than you think you’ll need. And if you have a tween or teen, double it.

Now go hit the road!

man behind wheel of Chevy Silverado

Our recent road trip from San Francisco to Mendocino in this sweet Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ was so fun!

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Hotel Review: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Hotel Review: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Visiting an all-inclusive resort can sometimes be a juggling act of remembering what you paid for. These resorts often encourage guests to upgrade and get more perks. Sometimes guests wait to be seated at dinner because their all-inclusive level isn’t as high as their neighbors. None of these are worries at Grand Velas Riviera Maya which, in my opinion, is the best luxury all-inclusive resort in Mexico.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya poolside suites

The architecture of the rooms and buildings at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya is outstanding.

Best All-Inclusive Resort in Mexico

Located on the Mexican Riviera Maya, you get what you pay for at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, in all the best ways. At first it might seem like the prices are high, and they are. Rooms begin at around $800 USD per night for two persons with a jungle view, $1,200 per night with a pool view, and $1,400 per night with an ocean view. However, these prices include all your food plus access to five AAA Diamond rated restaurants.  Also included are 24-hour room service, a fully stocked mini bar, all drinks including beer, wine and liquor as well as a personal concierge. At Grand Velas Riviera Maya, you get a lot for your money.

Mayan Connection

One thing I liked so much about the resort was how Grand Velas Riviera Maya embraces the Mayan culture of the region. The ceiling of the lobby areas and the walkways are designed in a palapa style, reminiscent of the ancient culture. One of the restaurants is named Chaka after local trees important in Mayan mythology. The spa treatments begin with a drink of ponche (a traditional Mayan drink) along with a Mayan blessing.  And the resort even offers a mezcal tasting, which Mayans considered a gift from the gods (and so do I!). Incorporating the heritage of the indigenous people of this part of Mexico, the resort helped me learn more about the Mayans, making my stay even more special.

covered walkways at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Palapa-style covered walkways link the buildings of the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Spacious and Luxurious Rooms

The resort is broken up into three sections: Grand Class Experience, The Ambassador Experience and The Zen Grand Experience. Each experience is unique and geared towards a different vacation style.

Zen Room at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Spacious and cozy, my Zen Room at Grand Velas Riviera Maya was a perfect combination of luxury and simplicity.

I stayed in the Zen section. Every room in Zen faces the jungle area of the resort and is exactly what the section says it is. I’ve rarely stayed at a hotel where you barely see the housekeeping staff, but that’s what happened at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. It was like magical fairies made up my bed every day and did a turn down service at night. At over 1,000 square feet, my room was larger than some of the first apartments I’ve rented! There was even a private terrace with lounge chairs to relax on.

Closer to the beach are Grand Class, which is the adults section, and Ambassador Experience, which is a family-friendly area. Shuttle vans are always available and can get you anywhere in the resort within 5 minutes.

Zen Room with jet tub at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

My Zen Room even had a jet tub with louver doors looking into the room and patio.

Top-Drawer Amenities

Part of the beauty of Grand Velas Riviera Maya is the majority of the amenities are included in the all-inclusive pricing. That includes wi-fi (which was strong and never slow), the fitness center, beach & poolside food and drink service, kayaks, fully stocked mini-bar in each room and the fully supervised kids clubs, which are open late to give parents the break they deserve.

Beach activities Grand Velas

Beach activities are included in the all-inclusive cost at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

One thing not included in the all-inclusive pricing but something every guest needs to take advantage of is Se Spa. Located in the Zen portion of the resort, Se Spa is an experience unlike any other spa trip I’ve ever had. Even if you don’t get a massage try the Water Ceremony – you get 80 minutes of therapeutic treatments like sauna, clay room, steam room and the water therapy pool. I think it’s the best spa in Mexico and since I’ve tried a lot of them, I’m a pretty good judge.

Se Spa at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Se Spa at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya is truly a work of art.

Gourmet Food and Drink

Imagine having access to five AAA Diamond rated restaurants in one place and not having to pull out your credit card.  This is what you’ll experience at the restaurants at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Lobster ceviche with avocado and lime salsa

Lobster ceviche with avocado and lime salsa was one of my favorite dishes at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

I was lucky enough during my stay to experience meals at the AAA 5 Diamond restaurant, Cocina de Autor, and the AAA 4 Diamond restaurant, Frida, along with several of the other restaurants at the resort. While all the restaurants were excellent, my top favorite had to be Cocina de Autor. With no set menu, each night guests are served courses based on the chef’s inspiration and what’s available from in-season items. A meal that takes advantage of all your senses, Cocina de Autor is based on molecular gastronomy or the science of physical transformation in food. All eight (yes, eight!) courses were smaller than you’d usually expect but well worth every bite. I couldn’t get enough of how the flavors were so large even if the servings weren’t. I also had the honor of meeting Chef Nahúm Velasco and he invited me into his kitchen!

Chef Nahúm Velasco at Cocina de Autor Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Chef Nahúm Velasco invited me into his kitchen at Cocina de Autor to witness the master at work.

Beaches and Pools

Sitting on the Caribbean Sea, Grand Velas Riviera Maya has a view of the sunrise that you won’t mind waking up early for. In fact, I highly suggest you do that at least once during your stay. It’s a peaceful way to start your day. Afterwards have breakfast at Azul, one of the Grand Velas Riviera Maya restaurants – you won’t be disappointed. During the day the beach has activities, lounge chairs and concierges to get your drink orders.

There are three pools at the resort. The pool at Grand Class is for adults only, and the pools at Zen Grand and Ambassador sections are open to everyone. While each pool is slightly different, all offer chaise lounge chairs, umbrellas and cushy towels. Poolside concierges are on hand to bring your choice of drinks and appetizers. Because when you’re half asleep from relaxing, who wants to get up to go to the bar, right?

Zen at Zen Grand Velas Riviera Maya

The Zen Pool at Grand Velas was just that – so relaxing and zen-like.

Can’t Wait to Return

Overall I can’t say enough great things about Grand Velas Riviera Maya. I know it sounds like I’m gushing and I am. Because the service at this resort is impeccable, the food delightful and the architecture splendid. I’ve visited many resorts in Mexico and think this is the best all-inclusive resort in Mexico. I highly recommend this visit for singles, couples, families and groups. You won’t find better service anywhere else. I can’t wait to return!

Se Spa Grand Velas honey vanilla scrub

Everything at Se Spa is done impeccably, like the set-up for my honey vanilla scrub massage.