Category Archives: Lifestyle & Leisure Blog

The Art Of The Staycation

 With a troubled economy and high gas

prices, the annual expectation of a summer getaway can put a damper on what is supposed to be the most relaxed of seasons. For many, expected warm-weather luxuries, like a trip to Disneyland or the Grand Canyon,

are no longer a realistic option. However, being short on funds doesn’t mean you have to

be short on fun. With a little effort and planning, a “staycation” – having

a vacation at home – can often be more rewarding than travel to far-flung

destinations.

Working mother Loralee Leavitt was desperately in need of a vacation when her second

child was two months old. Not relishing the thought of packing up a carload

of baby gear for an overnight, she decided to go the staycation route. “My

husband and I took the kids to nearby Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound for the

day. We rode the ferry, hiked through state park forest to a stony beach,

explored a pre-WWII army fort, ate dinner out and watched the sun set over the

ocean before the scenic drive home to put the baby to bed in his own crib. It

was a perfect getaway, all in one day.”

There is an old saying, “a

change is as good as a rest,” meaning that if you do something different with

your daily life and routine, it will be just as good for your mind as a

concerted effort towards relaxation. Switch up the daily grind, take a

different path than the one you beat every day. You may be surprised to find

that inspiration lies in your own backyard. Imagine all of the

stress that goes into planning a conventional vacation melting away: no expensive

airline tickets to hunt for, no hotel to inspire you to “cross your fingers and hope it’s not a

dump,” no need to beg the neighbors to feed the dog. However, even a staycation does

require a bit of forethought, so here are a few tips.

Change your Mindset

Put as much thought into your staycation as if you were planning a trip

somewhere you haven’t been before. Start by imagining that you are a tourist in

your own town. If there’s a visitor information center nearby, stop in and pick

up some pamphlets. Search online for places of interest in your area – without a doubt, there are some things you never knew about your hometown. Search

the calendar section of your local newspaper online and make a list of upcoming

exhibits and festivals.

Make a Budget

There’s nothing worse than coming home from a vacation to find yourself broke.

This feeling is even worse when you can’t justify it with actual travel

expenses. Think about the money you will spend on gas, admission prices to

points of interest, and meals away. One

of the great things about a staycation is that you can be flexible with meals,

packing your own picnics and snacks. It’s also a good excuse to check out some

of those local restaurants that you’ve always heard people raving about, but

have never made an excuse to go. Imagine yourself as the host of one of those

Food Network shows visiting out-of-the-way eateries and you just might find a

new favorite.

Put Down the Blackberry

Social media has become one of our most constant patterns in everyday life. Give

yourself a break not only from telling everyone what you are doing and thinking

every moment of the day, but also from taking in that information from others.

Even if you don’t consciously realize it, the constant barrage of Facebook and

Twitter can sap your energy, taking focus away from your immediate surroundings

ready to be explored during your staycation. If giving up email entirely makes you

uncomfortable, set up an “out of office” auto-responder at the very least. This

will allow you to get away with only checking messages occasionally, and relish

the opportunity to communicate when you feel like it.

Give Yourself Some Space

Make a short list of places that you’d like to visit each day, mixing it up

just as you would with a regular vacation, with museums, zoos, and new places

to dine. Build in a few contingencies for weather and down time. After all, one

of the beauties of the staycation is that you won’t feel such a pressing

urgency to “get your money’s worth” out of every day. You can just do what

feels right to you in that moment, without thinking about how much you’ve spent on hotels and airfare. The main objective is to have a fun and relaxing time, and

as with any vacation, it’s a delicate balance between planning and flexibility.

By taking a fresh look at

your surroundings and choosing to staycate rather than vacate, this summer

could turn out to be a great bargain for family fun. In the end, it’s not where

you choose to spend your time and money, but what you do with it that counts.

Photo: Adam Solomon, Creative Commons 2.0

What To Wear To An Outdoor Party

Summer always calls for a outdoor event, be it a garden wedding or a backyard BBQ. This raises the question of what to wear, especially for the ladies. And if you have multiple events to attend – it is wedding season, after all – then the hunt could be a little tricky and there are some unwritten rules to consider.

Keep it Cool – In the world of fashion, "no pain, no gain" is often the rule… but summer calls for loose attire that will keep you cool. Sweating isn’t fashionable. So choose something that will allow you to catch whatever breeze there is.

Avoid ALL White – You can certainly wear white during the summer and if you want to wear all white, that’s fine too, but not for a wedding. It’s a little taboo to wear all white to any wedding, summer or not, since it’s the bride’s day to wear white. This tradition is less enforced in today’s modern world, but I think it’s still something to consider.

Don’t Skip the Details – Romantic detailing is all the rage lately… ruffles, lace, sheer fabrics, embroidery. These elements can easily be incorporated into your summer wardrobe and will add an extra “dressy” touch to your outfit.

Mix Up the Neutrals – While I’m typically a fan of all-black outfits, it doesn’t seem appropriate for an outdoor summer event. So try to break it up a little by mixing in another color or a bold accessory. All black, navy or even beige can be a tad boring for the summer months. This is the season to embrace color and show some personality!

Think Outside the Dress – Dressing up doesn’t limit you to wearing a dress. More and more, we’re seeing rompers and jumpsuits substituted for sundresses and even formal wear. A breezy pair of pants or a long flowing skirt are both great alternatives that are on trend this year.

Summer Shoes – Somewhere between your go-to flip flops and your spiky heels, every girl needs a good neutral wedge in her closet. And if you’re like me, you might need a few neutral options. As a wedding planner, I have to always think of creative shoe options that will be comfortable without being too casual. If you like flats, that’s always an option, but I’ve grown fond of my wedges that allow me to be a little taller and a little dressier without having to worry about my heel getting stuck in the grass!

For the Men – Men don’t have quite as many options as women, but there are still ways for fellows to mix it up. To events where it’s appropriate to wear a nice pair of shorts, try pairing them with a button-down shirt with rolled up sleeves and a comfy pair of boat shoes. It’s no longer inappropriate to wear a hat to a lot of events, but it shouldn’t be a ball cap. Sport a fedora at your next backyard affair and I guarantee you’ll get some compliments! For an outdoor wedding where a coat and tie is required, a bow tie or a sports coat would also be appropriate. And every man should invest in a linen or searsucker suit. If you have to wear that many clothes in the heat, you’ll want them to breathe!

 

It is possible to look good in the heat, but it requires a little forethought. Hopefully these are suggestions that will help you dress comfortably and fashionably to your next summer soiree!

Photo: Cloudsoup, Creative Commons 2.0.

Pros And Cons Of A Destination Wedding

Destination Weddings have increasingly gained popularity as they appear to be more affordable and feasible for modern couples who don’t want to deal with the fuss of having a big wedding. But it’s not always a more affordable option! And it could easily require just as much planning, so here’s a look at the pros and cons so you can decide if having a destination wedding is right for you.

Weighing your Options – When you’re a new bride or groom, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the decisions you have to make. If you choose to have a destination wedding, your options are often limited to what the venue (or resort) provides and their list of preferred vendors. When you don’t know an area very well, you’re more prone to go with what the venue offers and that can make the decision-making process a little easier. However, if you’re a picky bride and you want a lot of unique details, you should think twice before booking a venue that makes those decisions for you.

Additional Expenses – It’s become a popular trend to have an intimate and small destination wedding and then host a reception at home once you return. The potential con is that you could easily spend double the amount you’d normally spend on your wedding because you’re essentially hosting two celebrations – your ceremony and a party when you get back. Sometimes brides who are considering this think that they will spend less since they aren’t hosting a traditional wedding, but the bulk expensive of every wedding is the reception and not the ceremony. So if you want to have a destination wedding and a reception, consider cutting back on the big expenses – venue, rentals and catering – then it will be a more affordable option. Maybe a friend or family member owns property that would be the perfect venue or opt to serve cocktails and hors d'oeuvres instead of a sit-down dinner.

The Limited Guest List – The guest list for a destination wedding is typically a deciding factor for the bride and groom (and their families). Typically, the further your destination, the shorter the guest list. So if you’re thinking you want a simple beach wedding, consider if your guests live within a reasonable travel distance. Generally, you’d only invite people you are very close to if you are having a wedding that isn’t easy to get to or would require your guest to take time off work. For instance, if your dream is to have a wedding in another country, you probably shouldn’t invite all your friends!

Give Your Creativity A Boost With Yoga

I have been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years, and

though life sometimes leads me away from a regular practice, I always seem to

find my way back to the mat. Why? On a physical level, yoga makes me feel

healthier. On a spiritual level, I am more at peace with the world. And on a

creative level, yoga just helps bring

things forth. That’s what creativity is all about, right? Making something

out of nothing, or altering what was there before. I’m not alone in believing

this – Yoga Journal says that yoga

has the power to connect us to inspiration through cultivating calm and balance.

Here are 4 other ways yoga can boost your creativity.

1. Get a little out of your mind

6 Pets To Think Twice About Getting

Pets can add a lot to your household, but some add more work, stress and cost than others. Some can be outright dangerous, while others will outlive you. Here's a list of pets you might not want to own.

1. Monkeys

Sure, they're adorable, but they're wild animals. Many states (currently 20) ban keeping them as pets. Many monkey lovers keep them anyway, treating them as babies. The problem is: the babies grow up and become belligerent adults. They are unpredictable and can bite or attack you and your children. Monkeys can live up to 40 years, which is a huge commitment for a pet, and it can be difficult to find a vet who will treat their many medical problems.

Monkeys are messy and expensive. You need a large cage to keep them happy but prevent them from roaming around your home and destroying it. You're better off leaving them at the zoo.

2. Horses

While the average person won't have a horse in their apartment, horses do require a lot of attention and money. Just like any other pets, they need vaccines and vet visits, but they also need trips to the dentist and blacksmith, as well as regular worming appointments. If you can't drive your horse to these appointments, you'll have to pay for the service provider to visit your horse.

A Guide To Summer Fun At Art Festivals

SOWA FairSummer is officially here, and art festivals are in full swing. Rain or shine, close to home or away on vacation, art shows are a great way to spend quality time with friends and family. These fairs allow you to get outside into the fresh air, enjoy some light exercise, and support independent artists all at the same time. Art festivals can be hugely varied, and are usually kid and pet friendly, so they really provide something for everyone. Sometimes the shows will have live entertainment, such as street performers or musicians. Balloon animals and craft tables are often available for the kids. And after spending a few hours perusing the artists' booths, you might grab a bite to eat at a food vendor's stall or truck. You can easily find information about local art festivals in the newspaper, on local news and events websites, in tourist information pamphlets, and by word of mouth. If you follow a favorite artist, you may even get a newsletter telling you what shows they will be at this season.

Getting Ready to Go

When preparing to visit an art show, be sure to account for the weather, how long you plan to attend, and any purchases you might make. Art festivals are great in either rain or shine, but be sure to dress accordingly. Bring sunblock and a hat with a brim if it's sunny out, and an umbrella or rain jacket if it threatens to rain. (Make sure to close your umbrella when you enter a tent, so as not to drip on the artwork.) A bottle of water is another art show necessity, especially if it's hot out, and you may also want to bring snacks if no food vendors are at the show. Unless there's a place to wash your hands, avoid eating anything sticky or greasy, since you'll be handling art and crafts. Of course, you'll also want to prepare for purchases – many vendors will accept credit cards, but you should bring some cash as well. Don't count on being able to pay with a check, many vendors don't accept them. Also, consider bringing along a reusable shopping bag for your purchases.

Friends at Art Show

While You're There

Once you're at the art show, it's time for the fun to begin! Fun activities for kids might include a crafting table, face painting, or balloon animals. If street performers or musicians are scheduled, the show information booth can tell you when and where to catch the acts. In the meantime, head over to the main event – the artists' booths. Whether you're looking for a specific piece or just browsing, take the time to interact with the artists. Art festivals are a great opportunity to learn more about the people behind your favorite arts and crafts. Artists typically welcome questions about their process or about a specific piece. Some even do live demonstrations, which can be a lot of fun to watch. As you shop, you're sure to find a few pieces to purchase as gifts or for yourself. If you're not ready to buy on the day of the art fair, ask the artist for their card – local artists may have other shows you can attend, or a shop or studio you can visit. Even if you're traveling, most artists today have websites where you can purchase items online.

Art Booth

Dos and Don'ts

Art shows are pretty casual affairs, but there are a few rules of etiquette you should follow. The main thing is to respect the artist and their work. So, if you have kids or pets in tow, keep an eye on them and make sure they're behaving properly. Older children should handle art or crafts with care, and you may want to ask the artists' permission before allowing young children to touch. Pets should be well trained, able to sit or stand quietly while you browse. If your pet is bit too excited, simply keep them outside of the artists' booth so nothing gets damaged while you shop. Finally, if you are interested in photographing the artists booth or their work, always ask permission first. Some artists may not allow you to take pictures, since they have to protect their trade secrets and copyrights.

Of course, the most important thing at any art fair is to have some good summer fun! Some of the best shows in my neck of the woods (Southern New England) are the SOWA Open Market, the Providence Open Market, and the Festival Fete shows. Do you have suggestions for art festivals near you?

Photos: SoWa Sundays, Creative Commons 2.0; oddharmonic, Creative Commons 2.0; Jeff Marquis, Creative Commons 2.0