November 15, 2015

Taking time fore self-care at Massage Envy

As a parent, I'm good at lots of things: finding missing Shopkins under the couch, reading stories, making sandwiches without a single morsel of crust, braiding doll hair. And of the many things I'm not so good at, one in particular stands out: taking time to relax.

My usual self-care indulgence of choice is an hour of Pure Barre, which is frequently so hard I can't think at all let alone stress over some minor detail of my day. When I choose a beauty treatment, it's almost always a pedicure, during which I frantically read as many back issues of US Weekly and People as I can before it's time to head home. As much as I love freshly painted nails and a pile of gossip magazines, multitasking isn't relaxing and I always leave feeling rushed and a bit like I've wasted an hour of my time.

When the opportunity to try a service at Massage Envy came my way, I was excited to give it a try - especially after I learned that Massage Envy offers facials in addition to massages. I made an appointment for a facial at the Gaithersburg location and was pleasantly surprised to learn Massage Envy is open late on weekday evenings. I was able to kiss my kids goodnight after bath time and head out for my appointment. The Gaithersburg location is in the busy Downtown Crown development, and if you happen to go on a Friday night like I did you'll want to give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes to find a parking space.

I arrived at the spa feeling frazzled after driving in circles looking for parking, and that stress melted away as the front desk staff led me to the relaxation room. I relaxed with a drink as I filled out my paperwork, and by the time my esthetician Su came to get me I was ready for relaxation. Su led me to a quiet treatment room and I quickly realized this was going to be a different sort of beauty indulgence than my usual magazines-and-pedicure break.

There is no multitasking during a facial: you lie quietly under a cozy blanket while your esthetician works their magic. This was exactly the relaxing indulgence I needed. Su analyzed my skin and suggested the anti-aging facial. Massage Envy offers four different facials, all using Murad products. While she worked, Su not only explained what she was doing each step of the way but also touted the virtues of facials and self-care in general. When you take time to care for yourself, she said, you take a more positive attitude back to your family and your work, and it makes you do better for everyone around you. I loved that, and it was a wonderful message during a relaxing treatment.

Massage Envy is a membership-based spa, with monthly memberships starting at $69.99. I was surprised to learn that services are available to non-members as well (at a higher rate), so those looking for an indulgence a little less often can still take advantage of Massage Envy's services. I can't make a monthly facial or massage part of my beauty routine these days, but I'll definitely be back for another treatment.

Disclosure: I received a free facial in exchange for my honest review.

October 25, 2015

Reading is literally magic

When A was a baby, I read the entire Harry Potter series aloud to her. I started while I was on maternity leave, and because days with a newborn are long and sweet and lacking in conversation I filled hours of our time with the story of a boy who found out he was a wizard on his eleventh birthday. She slept through almost all of our story times, and still I read on until I'd re-read the entire series with my baby girl in my arms.We finished right around her first birthday, and she's seen me read the books many times in the years since. I have a few sweet video clips of a toddler A holding various books in the series, pointing out "Arry" and "My-nee" on the covers and asking to see herself on the "bee-yo" at the end of each one. 

Not long ago, the Harry Potter movies were on TV, and I may have lamented out loud that I couldn't watch my favorite (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) because it was on while the kids were awake. A was miffed; what did I mean I couldn't watch it with her? Because she's in first grade and she's big, you know. I explained that parts of the story are a bit dark even for a big kid of six, and still she protested, so I told her the truth: I want both of my kids to read the books before they see the movies.

It's a silly arbitrary parent rule, and once I said it I realized it's one of the only because-I-said-so rules we have, because nearly everything else is safety or common sense related. And I also realized as soon as I said it that I really meant it, and not just because I think dementors and acromantulas are a little too much on screen for young kids. It's because I love these particular books a lot, and I want my children to discover the magic on the page, not on the screen.

And so a few days ago A and I started reading the Harry Potter series together, one chapter or so a night.

Have you ever loved a book so much you wished you could re-read it for the first time again? Re-reading these books with a wide-eyed six year old is pretty much just like that. A has scrunched up her nose at the Dursleys' cruelty, gasped as Harry finally gets his Hogwarts letter in that dilapidated shack, narrowed her eyes as he meets Draco Malfoy while shopping for his school robes, and smiled as Harry makes his first friend on the Hogwarts Express. We talk about where we left off before we dive in again each night, and we talk again before I kiss her goodnight, partly so I can make sure she understands the story and partly because I am quizzing her to make sure she is paying attention.

When we finished the chapter where Harry learns he's a wizard on his eleventh birthday, A worked out the math and figured out how many years she has to go before she turns eleven. She looked at me with eyes open wide with excitement and said, "do you think I might be a witch??"

If you are, I told her, I'm going to come visit you at Hogwarts.

October 15, 2015

Not your average alphabet book: B is for Bear

With two little readers in our house, we are not so slowly working our way through the children's section of the library. We've read funny books, science books, books with a message, books that offer a history lesson, and everything in between. I love watching my children gain confidence in their reading abilities (yes, little brother reads too, but that's a story for another post) and read bigger and more complex books, but my favorite books to read with them are still picture books. I'm a sucker for a beautiful picture book, and Hannah Viano's B is for Bear: A Natural Alphabet might just be my new favorite.

Our family was introduced to Viano's stunning cut paper artwork last year when our friends at Sasquatch Book sent us a copy of her first book, S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet. In this gorgeous follow up, Viano takes the reader on a nature walk one letter at a time. I love that B is for Bear doesn't stick to the usual alphabet book suspects. Instead of, say, C is for cat, it's C is for cloud, accompanied by simple but interesting facts.

Every time we read this book, I am amazed once again that the artwork on each page is made from paper and paper alone. Viano's technique involves cutting away from a sheet of black paper to reveal shapes and lines. As someone whose own paper cutting skills pretty much stop at the "really good at staying right on the line," I am in awe of what Viano does with paper. I often find myself mentally framing various images as we read her books, because wouldn't these make for elegant yet still kid-friendly wall art?

I can't post about B is for Bear without sharing my favorite page of the book...I love Viano's choice for the letter K. My two little readers are definitely my favorite creatures to see outdoors, and I love the feathery swoops in the tree.

If you're looking to bring an elegant dose of art to your next story time, pick up a copy of B is for Bear. And when you're finished, go outside.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. No affiliate links here!

September 27, 2015

Finding Your Wings: When She Had Wings at Imagination Stage

Our Miss A saw her very first play at the tender age of almost two, and she was hooked on the theatre from that moment. In the four years since, we've seen more shows together than I can count: some funny, some scary, two that she truly hated, and many that we loved and shared with family and friends.

Last night, we saw a play together that made me cry for the first time in four years of shows with my little girl.

When She Had Wings is a sweet, funny story inspired by the life of Amelia Earhart. B (short for Beatrix) is almost 10, and her dearest ambition is to fly. But B is afraid that if she can't fly before she turns 10 it won't ever happen, and so she doesn't want her birthday to come. When a stranger crashes into B's beloved backyard tree  just a few days before her birthday, she can't believe her eyes. Could this stranger be B's idol Amelia Earhart? Will B take flight before her birthday with help from the stranger who calls herself A?

Magic is in the air as Imagination Stage kicks off its 2015-2016 season with When She Had Wings, a play by Suzan Zeder, four-time winner of the Distinguished Play Award by the American Alliance of Theatre and Education. Directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer, When She Had Wings is a beautiful show with a powerful message of making the impossible possible with the limitless of childhood imagination. There's also a wonderful subtext of body acceptance that I wasn't expecting. 

My six year A didn't pick up on it, but as a parent I dearly loved this part of the story. B mentions her mother has bought her too-small pants as a gift and has plans to send her to weight loss camp for the summer. B laments growing up and getting too heavy to fly, while shrugging off her father's attempts to tell her he loves her just as she is. There's an especially touching moment near the end of the show when A tells B she needs weight to fly. I won't spoil the surprise but I will say this is the part of the show that had me tearing up.

Imagination Stage recommends When She Had Wings for ages 5 and up. While much of the show is funny and lighthearted, there are two storm scenes that are fairly loud. Children who are sensitive to noise may have trouble with these scenes. When She Had Wings runs September 23-November 1, 2015 in Imagination Stage’s Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Theatre. Tickets start at $10, and can be purchased online at, at the Imagination Stage box office, or via phone at 301-280-1660. Group rates are available, and I'm going to take advantage of that group rate to take A's Girl Scout troop to see the show.

Imagination Stage has several special performances of When She Had Wings, including: 

Post-Show Conversation: October 3 after the 4:00 p.m. show
The Creation of Power and Meaning through Imagination: A Young Girl’s Journey: Join child psychoanalysts Rosa Aurora Chavez Eakle, MD, PhD, and Carla Elliott-Neely, PhD and lead actress Pamela Christian and Director Kathryn Chase Bryer of When She Had Wings for a post-show panel moderated by Janet Stanford, Artistic Director.

Sensory-Friendly performance: October 11 at 11:00 a.m.
Sensory-Friendly performances are designed to be more accessible to those individuals on the autism spectrum or to others with sensory sensitivities.

ASL-interpreted performance: October 11at 4:00 p.m.
Please call 301-280-1660 for more information and to ensure proper seat location.

Saturday Night Flight: October 24 at 7:00 p.m.
Enjoy creative and fun activities courtesy of KID Museum!

Halloween Costume Parade: October 31 at 4:00 p.m.
Come in costume and take photos on the stage after the show!

All photos by Noe Todorovich courtesy of Imagination Stage

I received complimentary tickets in exchange for my honest review for Macaroni Kid Rockville-Gaithersburg.

August 19, 2015

#ShareYourLegacy Sweepstakes from H2O+ & Walt Disney Records

Disclaimer: I am participating in this campaign as a member of Entertainment New Media Network. Although this is not a paid post, I was sent a small thank you gift for my participation. All opinions expressed are my own. 

If someone asked you to share the legacy you hope to leave behind, what would you say? When I set out to answer this question, posed by Walt Disney Records and H2O+, I was sure I knew what my answer would be...and then just a few days ago we had an experience that changed my answer. I'm sharing it here in my very first (and possibly last!) vlog post. 

Feeling inspired to #ShareYourLegacy too? H2O+, the exclusive worldwide provider for in-room amenities at the Disney Resorts, is teaming up with Walt Disney Records to celebrate Walt Disney Records The Legacy Collection, which commemorates the anniversaries of Disney's most cherished and classic films. The Lion King 2-disc set launched the series last year.

Can you feel the love tonight?

They are inviting you to #ShareYourLegacy because all women (and men!) have a story and all stories lead to a legacy...and they're offering a chance to add a spectacular Broadway adventure to your story! 

Visit to submit a video and #ShareYourLegacy today!


US Only – 18+

Participants do NOT have to post #ShareYourLegacy to enter the sweeps.

Enter now for a chance to add an exciting Broadway story to your legacy. Grand Prize Winner and a guest will be whisked away to New York City for a once in a lifetime Broadway experience. Find out more at:

Prizes are:

- Round-trip airfare for two to NY
- Two night hotel stay
- Two tickets to The Lion King and exclusive behind the scenes tour
- H2O+ Skin & Bodycare Beauty Basket ($500 retail) full of bestsellers for healthy, glowing skin for your big night on the town.

Good luck - and happy memory making!


Barking Pet Food Truck Headed to DC!

 Note: I received a gift card in exchange for helping to promote the Wellness Natural Pet Food Wagon. No further compensation was received and all opinions are my own.  

One of our family's favorite things to do each weekend is hit up our favorite food truck for breakfast at the farmer's market. This week, pets can join in the food truck fun at two DC area locations as Wellness® Natural Pet Food visits with their Wellness Natural Pet Food Wagon!

The Wellness Natural Pet Food Wagon is a dog-shaped food truck with a wagging tail and a horn that barks, and they're on the road sharing their 5 Signs of Wellness” as a way to educate pet parents on visible indicators of overall pet wellbeing.  

Pets and pet parents alike can come “wag their tails” in front of the wagon - and for every photo shared using the hashtag #WagsforWellness, Wellness Natural Pet Food will donate a bag of Wellness pet food to shelter pets in need.

There are two stops in the DC/Baltimore area this week:

·         August 19: PetSmart, 9041 Snowden Square Drive, Columbia, MD, 11 – 4PM
·         August 23: Petco, 10790 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA, 9 -2PM

Stop by and check out the dog agility course and sample the latest Wellness pet food and treats - and don't forget to take a picture and tag it to share the love with shelter pets!

August 2, 2015

Ready, Set...#RaceForTheCase!

Note: I received a Cartoon Cuts gift card exchange for helping to promote the Race for the Case campaign. No further compensation was received and all opinions are my own. 
School starts here at the end of the month, and A is excited and ready to go. Last week, I shared a great back-to-school cause with you: Cartoon Cuts' Race For The Case. Join the fun this Thursday, August 6 from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and help raise $25,000 to build a school in Guatemala!

It's hard to find hands on opportunities for young children to give back, and many of those opportunities happen around the holidays. Cartoon Cuts' Race for the Case is a great way to start a discussion with your kids about giving back all year long - and a great way to demonstrate that you can have fun while you give.

Pencil cases filled with pencils, combs, gift cards, free haircut cards, and other freebies will be hidden around every shopping center with a Cartoon Cuts location. Click here to find a Cartoon Cuts salon in your area!  To get clues where they are just follow Cartoon Cuts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for clues throughout the day on where you can catch a case!

For this event, Cartoon Cuts has partnered with Pencils of Promise (PoP), a for-purpose organization that builds schools in developing countries. For every pencil case champ that shares their experience on social media with the hashtag: #RaceForTheCase, Cartoon Cuts will donate $1 to PoP! The money donated will go toward their $25,000 goal to build a school in Guatemala. Learn more about this fun event here.

Can’t make it on Thursday? Cartoon Cuts has a donation page set up through PoP, so you can still help raise funds for the school! Click here their donation page.