Friday, August 15, 2014

College Prep and The College Trip

So she didn't like Georgetown. We go to walk around this pretty campus.
Next week, my husband,, youngest daughter and I are embarking on what I hope is our last college touring trip.
Don’t get me wrong, going to visit colleges can be a lot of fun. We have done it multiple times with both of our older girls, and you would think the youngest had seen enough schools that she wouldn’t need to go to anymore.
But she is looking at some different colleges, and we don’t want to deny her the opportunity to explore some of the same places with a fresh eye. She is going into her senior year of high school, and did well enough on her standardized tests that those at least are off her plate.
My very organized oddest daughter created a spread sheet, with dates of upcoming standardized tests, and deadlines, but you can also download the very useful KapMap, which gives yo a month by month planing guide, form freshman through senior year of high school.
We looked at Hamilton College in winter since you need to love snow to go here.
Don’t stress if your kid is already past the first or second year of high school; though you may have missed some critical planning, you can double up and get back on track pretty quickly.
Some of the KapMap suggested guidelines include building a strong resume, with quality extra curricular activities and good grades, things that most parents of college bound students are already thinking about once their kid starts college.
What We Learned
One of the most important things we learned about the college process, having been through it with two kids (and ourselves, a hundred years ago) is that it really has to be all about the kid. Maybe you think the dorms look grotty - keep that to yourself. Unless your daughter solicits your opinion, don't say a word.
We have also learned to listen, but not speak during info sessions and college tours, unless the school encourages parents and kids to take separate tours. I actually love this - then we can ask the adult about safety, drinking parties and the food pyramid and not have our children give us the hairy eyeball.
Make it a Vacation
Don’t despair if you kid hates the college you are visiting. Maybe you found a cool art museum nearby, or a craft brewer. You might discover a great little vegetarian restaurant.
Think of the college touring trip as an opportunity to explore different areas, like Middlebury, VT or Washington, DC. Have fun with it.
Just be careful about how successful you want the college process to be. After all the testing, the applications, the tours, you face a new challenge - cramming in trips for all the admitted students days. 
And then you start paying tuition…

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.” 

Friday, August 8, 2014

VTech - Not Just for Kids’ Electronics

Wearing the lightweight safety pendant from the VTech CareLine phone system
When my mother moved into senior housing recently, we had to buy her a new corded phone, a new cordless phone and a safety pendant in case she had an accident.

What I didn’t know was that we could have saved money and a lot of headache if we’d just gotten the new VTech CareLine SN6197. The 3 in 1 phone system has everything we needed, along with easy to follow instructions and even better features than the phones we got. I tested the phone out - after we’d already bought the separate components - and was impressed with the quality and ease of use.

The oversize buttons on the corded phone are perfect for someone whose vision isn’t what it used to be; my mother often calls one of her four kids and insists she dialed another.

See Who You Are Calling
Even more useful are the photo speed dial buttons. There are four, perfect for my three siblings and me to be our mother’s photo contacts. Though here, the instructions are way too complex for an older adult to follow.

And who wrote these instructions: “we recommend you store two contacts that you may need to call them more often or immediately to photo speed keys 1 and 2.” If my mother had read this she should have burst into tears.

But my 15 year old didn’t even need the instructions - she just intuitively knew how to add photos.

While it seems like cell phones and caller ID would eliminate any question about who’s calling, my mom still gets confused. I get it - I have 3 daughters who sound alike, but still - their names pop up if they call her. With the VTech system, a voice actually announces who is calling.

And the audio asset turns up the volume during a phone call so your parents can actually hear what you are saying.

Safety Pendant
The lightweight safety pendant can be clipped on to a pocket or belt, or worn around the next. If your mom has an accident, she can call just by pressing button 1 or 2 (which correspond to the 1 and 2 on speed dial). There is also voice activated calling from the pendant. And there is no extra monthly fee.

Disclosure: I was compensated by VTech for this post; opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Luxury Spa, Luxury Gym: Lodge at Woodloch

The Lodge at Woodloch's gym; a playground for adults
Whether you are an avid exerciser, or just looking to dip your toe into starting a fitness program, the Lodge at Woodloch offers an array of exercise classes, plus a state of the art gym, so you can work out on your spa getaway.
The gym had all the toys I love; bosu balls, stability balls, box steps, free weights and weigh benches, plus a few goodies - hula hoops, a barre for stretching, and a priceless view when you use the cardio machines.

Look at those trees outside the gym
Woodloch is set in the Poconos, and the wooded backdrop is quite an inspiration. Plus, if you grow bored with the exercise equipment, you can bike, paddle a kayak, run outside, hike. There are yoga classes and guided meditations.

My husband and I took a spin class, which was pretty much like any other spin class in a gym; not SoulCycle, but also not music at a bone-crunching volume. We also took a weight class with an energetic young instructor, who challenged us to push our limits. I wanted to take a bosu class, but three exercise classes in one day exceeds almost every limit, and I really wanted to take a cooking demo.

Two days was hardly enough to scratch the surface of Woodloch, but if you are there for a few more days, you can take advantage of more exercise classes and that great gym. The gym also had soft towels, headphones, and a bowl of fruit and nuts outside if your workout left you a little worn out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bathing Suits and Ice Cream: Strange Bedfellows

Relaxing in my MiracleSuit
Low-fat frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet and the like all have their place, but nothing beats premium, full-fat ice cream.

This is a rare indulgence for many women, particularly since in summer, when you are crazing ice cream the most, you are usually baring more skin, and more self-conscious.

I found it particularly ironic to be at the MomTrends party where the ultra premium Adirondack Creamery  ice cream gave samples to women bloggers checking out bathing suits.

But those bathing suits, by MiracleSuit magically make you look better - 10 pounds lighter in 10 seconds the tag claims.

Here’s the thing - the suit delivers. I don’t know how a bathing suit can be so comfortable and make everyone in one look so good, but when I saw another mom wearing a MiracleSuit, I thought, “I’ll have what she’s having” (thank you to When Harry Met Sally).

Of course, one spoonful of that Adirondack Creamery ice cream and you  might be making indecent moans a la Meg Ryan. The upstate New York ice cream makers keep thing simple, with just a dozen flavors and a few seasonal specialties.
Earl’s Chocolate Peanut Butter is how I roll; there’s also an amazing vanilla with toffee called Barkeater, a coffee flavored High Peak Perk and a banana chip with dark chocolate chunks. Pure heaven.

And if after indulging in a few bowls of this rich dessert, you need to go up a bathing suit size, you can feel confident that you’ll still look great in a MiracleSuit.
Note: I was not compensated for this post.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Family Travel Tips, Dog in Tow

We brought our dog on a family trip to surprise our middle daughter
Whether you are traveling by car or plane, dogs have special needs. You will have to plan extra stops if you are driving, and may need to limit food for a dog before he rides in a car or airplane.

Car Travel with Dogs
Don't let dogs sit in the front seat of the car. The safest place for a dog is in the back seat, secured with a harness.
If you are crossing state lines with a dog in the car, you need to have the pet’s health certificate; visit the vet to get a copy.  
Weather Considerations
Our dog had the whole back of the SUV to herself
Never leave a dog in a car with the windows all the way up- in summer, or even spring, a dog can quickly overheat.  The safest thing is to take the dog with you. In winter,  bring unscented baby wipes to clean your dog’s paws; rock salt and anti-freeze can harm his paws.
Airplane Travel with Dogs
Dogs over a certain size (which varies by airline) have to travel in the cargo hold. Certified therapy or guide dogs of any size can travel in the cabin, but you may need to bring certification.

Traveling in the cargo hold can be very stressful for dogs, and in winter or summer, downright dangerous. Air cargo holds are not temperature regulated. Make sure your pet has plenty of access to fresh water.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dirt Happens: Exercise, Smells and Laundry

Smiling, but sweaty, the Ultimate champions
I love to run and bike outside, but the smell of sweat - not so much. And a team of teenage girls, playing 6 games of Ultimate Frisbee in 2 days - the smell of their feet could kill you.

We chaperoned a trip to Schenectady for the state championship (which we won, thank you very much) and had 3 girls in the back sea on the way home. They played 4 game son the final day, with no chance to shower and feet that had been confined to cleats all day.  The huge sunroof on the Lexus RX450 did not sufficiently air out the car.

Then I realized we should have used Bounce Bursts. The scent boosters bring in the fresh scent of the outdoors, rather than the rank odors of sweat, mud and a soup├žon of animal excrement.

Actually, it could have been human waste- we had to use Porta potties for 2 days.

I tried the Bounce Bursts in the laundry; we had plenty. The outdoor scent comes in time released capsules, so the clothing smells fresh, even after all day play.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Exercising My Right to Drive a Convertible

My favorite ride on a recent trip to Disney
Disney is all about fantasy, so driving a Camaro SS was a dream come true at the ultimate fantasy land, Walt Disney World.

I was in Disney at the TravelingMom retreat and Chevrolet brought a bunch of shiny cars for everyone to drive. There was a 2014 Impala, the 2015 Tahoe and Suburban and the 2014 Camaro.

It poured for most of our time in Florida, so we really got to test the cars in less than ideal conditions - wet roads, mist falling. So we didn’t have the top down.  But the car handled well on curvy roads in the rain; I could imagine how much fun it would be to tool along on the California coast in this sporty car.

Where to Go

Chevy MyLink has a built in navigation system, but this Camaro was also equipped with OnStar, a remarkable concierge service for your car. You press a button, and within seconds are connected to a live phone call. All you have to do is tell the person where you are going, and directions will be either loaded into the nag system for you, or spoken aloud while you drive. Amazing.

The Camaro looks great from any angle
OnStar also offers incredible peace of mind - they provide roadside and emergency assistance, even for weather situations out of the scope of the car.  If say, the car in front of you hit black ice and had an accident, you could contact OnStar and get that person emergency help.

Connected Car

Chevy MyLink has an easy to use touchscreen, with Sirius XM radio and bluetooth integration with your phone.

Eyes on the Road

Everyone else is looking at you, but you want to make sure that you keep your eyes on the road.  It’s easy with this car, which has color heads up display. There are also audio controls on the leather steering wheel, so you won’t get distracted playing with the touchscreen.

Midlife Crisis

The money shot; the Camaro with the top down
If you drive this car with little kids, there are rear child seat latch anchors.  And up to teen years, a couple of kids will fit comfortably in the back seat. 

But if you are tall, and/or have large children, they will not enjoy the rather cramped rear seat. I like to drive with my seat pretty far forward, but still, my rear seat passengers were happy to get out of the car.

However, the Camaro does offer creature comforts like heated front leather seats, remote keyless entry, parking assist and power outlets.

The Camaro starts at $41,885; extras including special headlights, racing stripe, automatic transmission, remote start and the navigation system brought the price up to $46,650. It gets 15 mpg in the city, 24 on the highway.

Note: Chevrolet provided the Camaro for my test drive. Opinions expressed are my own.