Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Club Picks for 2015

I have always loved to read, but lately I find that I have to make time for myself to read. A book club is a wonderful way to read a book every month, interact with others, and have a productive discussion. What makes a good book club book? Book club books should be long enough to promote a good, healthy discussion but short enough to read comfortably in a month with everyone’s busy schedules.

Books inspire and delight me. A good book takes me to another place or time and gives me a glimpse into another world that might not necessarily be mine. I think that variety is important for a good book club. By mixing non-fiction with fiction and including books with characters from different time periods, ages, and cultural backgrounds, every book offers something new.

Reading is so enjoyable, but it’s even better when it is shared with others during time spent together. Add some delicious food and drinks and it is the recipe for a perfect evening.

Book Club Picks

The Perils of Pauline is a hilarious romantic comedy about the trials and tribulations of motherhood and marriage. Life seems perfect for Pauline until she receives a termination letter one Friday. One event changes the course of everything in this witty and honest book that portrays a woman who does the best she can given tricky circumstances. It's a story of finding out who you ae and what's really important while answering the scariest question of all: "What now?"

I have read the book The Distance Between Us: A Memoir in English and Spanish. My Advanced Studies students read the Spanish-language version of the book and enjoyed Reyna Grande's brutally honest account of growing up in Mexico without her parents and her difficult journey to the United States. My students made dioramas to demonstrate understanding of the text. I love what the students made.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel is a hilarious look at Bernadette Fox. From Amazon, "To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic."

History buffs will love A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire. This interesting non-fiction book recounts the history of one of the world's most valuable commodities of past, cochineal, a vibrant red dye from Mexico that catapulted Spain's economy. With a story that reads like a spy novel and characters including pirates, explorers, kings, and cardinals, history comes alive with this book. I was particularly interested in this book because I visited a cochineal farm in Oaxaca, Mexico.


My daughters and I concurrently read two different books that have a similar theme and discussed them together. Natalia and Alexia read Trash and I read Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Although the characters in the two books are on opposite sides of the world, both books portray the lives of young trash pickers. The three of us developed a deep appreciation for the lives and opportunities that we have and have tried to be more grateful for what we have. One of the most powerful quotes from the Behind the Beautiful Forevers relays this thought, "It seemed to him that in Annawadi, fortunes derived not just from what people did, or how well they did it, but from the accidents and catastrophes they avoided. A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught." So powerful.

The Husband's Secret is coming up on our book club list. I'm curious to learn what the husband's secret is in this New York Times Bestseller!

Do you participate in a book club? What books are you reading this year?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Social Media Tips for Parents

For new mommies and toddler mommies, the internet is full of bloggers and advice. But the "Mommy Bloggers" seem to disappear when their children are older. It's easy and fun to share advice and beautiful pictures of adorable children when children are young. But as the children get older, the consequences of their actions are more serious and permanent, especially when it comes to social networking and the use of technology.

My girls love to use technology and are quite adept at using many programs. On a regular basis, Natalia and Alexia make videos for school assignments and submit a large majority of their work online through the paperless Google Classroom. The girls also enjoy using technology for personal use. 

With everything from laptops, Chromebooks, Kindles, and phones in their possession, the best decision that I made was to establish ground rules for using technology before giving these items to the girls. It has worked well for me and the girls are learning how to use technology appropriately and safely. 

Here are the four guidelines that are in place in my home to help educate and protect my daughters in the wild world of social media in 2015. 

1. Lights Out at 8 p.m. My mother always said that it was not appropriate to make or receive phone calls after a certain time of night. Since the majority of the socializing that teens do today takes place on social media, it makes sense to establish times when this socializing can take place. The girls do not make or receive texts, emails, or messages after 8 p.m. when I collect the electronic devices and charge them. I do have to say that when they wake up in the morning, the girls have quite a few messages and notifications. It gives me peace of mind to know that Natalia and Alexia get a good night's sleep that is not interrupted by the glow of a screen.

bamboo charging station
Bamboo Charging Station
2. Nothing is Private. Everything that is texted, messaged, or posted online is a permanent record that serves to paint a picture of the author. I emphasize the importance of carefully considering things that they post or share online. The litmus test that I have for my girls is the "Nana" test. If they wouldn't be proud to show the picture, message, or post to their Nana, then it should not be posted. Today's texts influence future college scholarships and job opportunities. I try to be an example to my girls through my own use of social media and allow them to see everything that I post.

3. Talk with People. While it is important to use technology in a mature, appropriate manner, I believe that it is more important to build relationships in-person. The girls are not permitted to use technology during family meals or special events when they should be cultivating personal relationships face-to-face. Ever since my girls were able to speak, I emphasized the importance of making eye contact and having conversations with others.

4.  Be Kind and Respectful. Self respect is an important characteristic that teens need in order to survive the social media jungle. Natalia and Alexia know that I monitor their posts every night and must notify me if they change their password. I expect them to respect themselves and others, avoiding negative comments and hurtful online activities.

With education about the proper use of social media and a balance of other extra curricular activities, events, and experiences, teens build relationships and self-esteem in a positive environment.

Some of the Prohibited Apps in My House
- Vine
- Snapchat
- Kik
- Tinder

Look for another installment to this blog post that will include my favorite apps for students that will help them to be successful in school as well as something that everyone needs to do right now!

Happy Saturday!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pink Drink Recipe + Blue and White Sale Picks

Happy Friday! You're in for a treat today. I have a delicious drink recipe to share with you and quick wrap up of the best weekend sales. We're supposed to get more snow again tonight, so I have to make the most of today.

When I was in Barcelona, I took a cooking class to learn how to make some tapas. Over the course of about 4 hours, I made and sampled at least 8 delicious tapas (that I can remember) and sipped a delicious fruit drink while I worked. Today is the last day of the semester at the school where I work, so the Advanced Studies class plans to use the cooking lab today while I help them to prepare three of my favorite recipes from the class in Barcelona. They're going to make patatas bravas, pan de tomate, and the delicious fruit drink that I'm enjoying in this picture. The drink is so easy to make and looks so elegant!

cooking class in Barcelona

  • grenadine
  • sugar
  • orange juice
  • pineapple juice
  • another juice of your choice (I used peach nectar!)
  • fruit (for garnish)
  1. Pour a little bit of grenadine on a plate. Put some sugar on another plate. Dip the rim of the glass in the grenadine and then coat the edge of the glass with sugar. It looks pink!
  2. Add a tablespoon or two (it's up to you!) of grenadine in the bottom of the glass.
  3. Add the fruit juices in any amount or combination according to your preference.
  4. Garnish the drink with a slice of fruit.
  5. Enjoy!

easy drink recipe

After a busy week, I enjoy going shopping, even if I'm only going window shopping. So many stores are offering fantastic sales on things to wear now and later. Lately I've been wearing a lot of blues and white, so I have a selection of some of the things that caught my eye. The best part is that everything has an amazing price point.

A nautical hooded fleece peacoat with navy stripes is a fantastic transition piece that will keep you nice and warm. The slightly fitted coat flatters your figure and coordinates well with almost anything. It's only $35 and is an additional 20% off that price today with the code SAVEBIG.

nautical striped hooded fleece peacoat old navy

Upgrade your look with this vented cable-knit pullover sweater. The cable knit detail is a fresh take on a winter classic. The cropped sweater looks adorable over an Oxford shirt. Get an additional 50% off the already low sale price with the code BREXTRA.

vented cable knit sweater winter style

Lilly Pulitzer always remarked that "Too much is never enough!" You can never have too many sweaters in your wardrobe, especially when you can get this Marielle sweater at 50% off retail price and free shipping. I love this shade of blue because it complements so many skin tones and matches lots of Lilly. Go ahead, "Break the Rules!"

lilly pulitzer marielle sweater break the rules on sale

Tunics offer comfort with a punch of fun! As soon as I saw this octopus print tunic, I knew that I needed to add it to my closet ASAP. You'll love the price, too!

octopus print tunic nautical preppy tunic

What are your plans for the weekend? Do you plan to do any shopping?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Banish the Bathing Suit (for now!) + OOTD

If you've been to your favorite store lately, you'll notice a strange phenomenon. All of the shoppers are dressed in multiple layers of sweaters, coats, and gloves. The merchandise on display includes bathing suits, shorts, and sun hats. Unless you're going on a warm weather vacation next week or you're blessed to live in a very warm climate, you won't need these items for at least another few months.

Now is the time to stock up on things that you may have overlooked at the beginning of the season. Almost every store is having a fantastic sale on great items that will last you for years. Buy now and wear it now or save it for next winter.

With sale prices, you can afford to splurge on a luxurious coat or cashmere gloves.

Here are four timeless pieces that you can wear now!

1. The Classic Toggle Coat. With a Thinsulate lining and classic details, this coat will be a staple piece in your wardrobe for many seasons to come. It's on sale for under $100 and has a removable hood!

2. Cashmere Gloves: These gloves are tech friendly, so you'll be able to use your phone while you stay warm.

3. Fleece Lined Leather Boots: Extra 50% Off All Sale Styles and free shipping with the code 50SALE means that these stunning leather boots are only $50 shipped!

4. Satin-Trimmed Fleece Robe: Fleece with a touch of satin? Oh yes! Bring luxury indoors with this satin-trimmed fleece robe that will keep you warm even with the coldest winter draft.

Are you still shopping for winter basics or have you started to look towards spring?

Here's what I'm wearing the snow! 

preppy blogger snow outfit


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Barcelona Adventure in Lilly

Barcelona is one of my favorite destinations in the world. This culturally rich Mediterranean city is almost surreal. The art of Salvador Dali and Antoni Gaudi is everywhere and makes me feel like I've jumped into a page of a Dr. Seuss book set in Spain. It seems almost unimaginable to me that Gaudi's Park Guell never took off as a planned community because it offers a commanding view of the city in a beautiful setting. I spent so much time in Park Guell exploring all of the houses, trails, and benches. The mosaic patterns and gingerbread like houses and towers are simply amazing.

Park Guell Barcelona
Ray-Ban Sunglasses //  Shirt //  Bag icon

With incredible architecture around every corner, Barcelona has many architectural gems. La Pedrera, designed as an office and residential building by Gaudi, is located a few blocks from our hotel. I learned that Gaudi took his inspiration from nature and preferred curving lines instead of straight ones.

La Pedrera Barcelona

Shopping in Barcelona is heavenly. Conveniently, my hotel was located along the Passeig de Gracia, the Spanish equivalent of the Champs-Élysées or Fifth Avenue. I drooled at many of the luxury store windows, but stayed in budget at some of my favorite Spanish stores like Zara, MANGO, Tous, and El Corte Inglés, Europe's largest department store group. I picked up a few fantastic pieces from the Corte Inglés house brand called Sfera. I also loved Zara Home, where I am standing in this picture.

Zara Home Barcelona Spain
Sunglasses // Dress //  Shoes

Although shopping along the Passeig de Gracia is a great way to spend the afternoon (and some money!) the most famous street in Barcelona is La Rambla. There's more shopping to be found here, too, but it's more touristy and is better suited to people watching in my opinion. My daughter Natalia was thrilled that I found a little license plate with her name on it. My daughter is actually named for a lovely Catalan woman I know named Natalia! The pedestrian boulevard is lined with beautiful buildings with balconies, street vendors, restaurants, and shops. La Rambla is busy at all hours of the day and night and offers an interesting glimpse at every cross section of the population. Get a reservation at the Attic restaurant in La Rambla. With a rooftop terrace that offers some of the best views in the city and a delicious menu, this restaurant is an outstanding choice at any time of day.

La Rambla Barcelona Spain

To say that food in Barcelona is delicious is quite an understatement. With plentiful fresh seafood, traditional Catalan recipes, and tapas, Barcelona delights any foodie. I visited La Boqueria market every day that I was there and found something new every day. Many of the food stalls will shrink wrap cured meats and cheeses so that they can be taken on the plane. My daughters loved the intricate designs of the marzipan that I brought to them. If you go to Barcelona, you must visit Bar Clemen's located towards the back of the market. It is the best seafood that I had in Spain and is possibly the best seafood that I have ever had. I highly recommend the razor clams. I took a cooking class and learned how to make a variety of tapas. Watch for another post with some recipes and tapas tips.

Marzipan La Boqueria Market


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sporty Style Guide

It's all fun and games until the jeans start to get a little bit tight. I honestly don't enjoy going to the gym, but it's necessary. Perhaps I just have not found the right class or mix for me, but I'll still make the attempt because the winter fluff needs to disappear. I went for a personal training session and tried some things that I had never done. For the majority of my life, I've done cardio, cardio, cardio and that's about it. In the personal training session, I was doing planks and using all kinds of resistance equipment that was completely new to me. It felt good.

When I dress to work out, I am looking for comfort more than anything else.

After trying on dozens of pants, I've found that my absolute favorite pants are the Perfect Core Pant from Lucy. I love the way these pants slim and firm my legs and bottom. Since I'm only 5'4", I love it that these pants come in the perfect length for me. The waistband is high enough to keep me covered and makes my stomach so smooth. The pants are not cheap, but are well worth the money, trust me!

Lucy Perfect Core Pant
During the cold winter months, I always like to find long sleeve tops that keep me warm on the way to the gym, but aren't bulky or hot. The Perfect Post Long Sleeve Top iconis a fun choice and has an interesting v-back detail.

Lucy Perfect Pose Long Sleeve Top
Top (on super SALE!)
In the past, I gravitated towards black, navy, and gray bottoms, but lately I'm loving a pop of color in my workout gear. Bold, bright colors make me happy and add a little bit of motivation to the workout game. If I'm excited to get dressed to go to the gym, that's a good thing. These capri pants are reversible, extending your workout wardrobe and adding some color. Zella's Reversible Capri Pant feature a wide waistband and hidden pocket.

Zella Reversible Capri Pant
Capri Pant

My workout shoes are from Nike. The Nike Lunarglide 6 areicon so lightweight and add some bounce to my stride. Of course I had to get them in pink!

Nike Lunarglide 6
Yesterday was a school holiday, so the girls' confirmation class went to SkyZone for the afternoon. It was such a blast! They jumped for over an hour and loved it. Such good exercise for them and they could practice some pretty amazing cheer and poms jumps.



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