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Marina del Rey: Beach-going made nice and easy

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LA Locals and visitors adore this low-key family friendly waterfront area that offers a little bit of everything

Marina del Rey is one of the mellowest beach communities in Los Angeles. With 600 acres of protected natural wetlands on its southern border, making its landscape unique and everlasting, it is quieter and more calm than its neighbors Venice and Santa Monica. For natives and tourists who discover it, Marina Beach is a sandy gem of a waterfront destination that combines nature, watersports, and family friendly venues, making it a welcome departure from the busier adjacent beaches.

Water Play

The Marina is known as the area’s center for boating and fishing excursions, but it is also popular as one of the best places for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding around Los Angeles. On a typical day, the sandy cove at the end of the Marina is stripped with paddle boards and kayaks lined up by the shore, coming in from outings about the marina and awaiting someone new to rent them.

Paddleboard yoga, a sport which originated in Marina del Rey, created by the founder of YOGAqua, has also taken off as a favorite Marina activity, where sessions begin with a warm-up lap around the Marina and progress to a series of stretches and poses – on anchored boards, ending with the most-experienced participants in headstands on their boards.

The big boats in the Marina and their diminutive paddling brethren exist like sharks and the feeder fish that follow around them. Though occasionally a paddler or boater will get annoyed at the other for encroaching on their territory, mostly they exist symbiotically. Paddle boards and kayaks are available for rental by the hour or day at Marina del Rey Boat Rentals, Pro SUP Shop, and the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center.

Why families love it

At the popular Marina Beach, known locally as Mother’s Beach, children can play in the confines of a roped-in shallow swimming area, or families and parties can enjoy gatherings in the covered pavilion, where community barbeques and tables are available for reservations. If you don’t feel like packing along your picnic, you can get food to go at Beach Eats, and all-summer weekly food truck event with live music on Thursdays evenings.

If you do make a day of hanging at the beach, be warned that the bathroom facilities are not posh by any standards, but they are convenient, just a brief walk from the water’s edge, and there are outdoor shower stations for a quick rinse-off.

Beach cruising

The popularity of the Marina recreation area during peak season can mean scarce parking, with only one major lot by Marina Beach that costs $12 for all-day parking. Another option is to hop on the Free Ride shuttle, which operates noon to 9 pm and offers stops all around the waterfront area. For those who want to cruise at a slower speed, bike rentals are available in Fisherman’s Village, where cyclists can ride along the beach on the Marvin Braude coastal bike trail, all the way from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance Beach.

Water ways

The Fisherman’s Village, a New-England style promenade by the docks, offers a variety of shops and restaurants with great views of the boats.  It is also the launch pad for boating experiences, from seasonal whale watching and hard-core deep fishing tours to gondola rides and pleasure yachting. For those who want a truly high-level look at the area, Marina Del Rey Parasailing offers tours of the Venice and Santa Monica beaches, gliding under a kite from 500- to 800-feet up. Other experiences departing from the Marina, such as private yachting cruises and fishing adventures, are available from private boat owners who loan out their sea vessels, with or without captains, through Airbnb off-shoot Boatsetter.

See food

Dining experiences around the Marina range from the causal to the classy. TonyP’s Dockside Grill, overlooking the Marina, serves up consistently good seafood – including legendary fish and chips, as well as steaks, sandwiches and salads in a friendly, family restaurant atmosphere that appeals to local and tourists alike.

El Torito at Fisherman’s Village offers one of the best views of the Marina, which is why the place is packed at sundown, full of boisterous diners who come for the sundown spectacle and some of the best tequila drinks in town, like the George Clooney strawberry margarita, best enjoyed with the restaurant’s signature table-side-prepared guacamole and fresh-made chips, along with the ultimate appetizer of bacon wrapped jumbo shrimp.

For causal family dining a bit more inland, Fresh Brothers at the Waterside Marina del Rey shopping plaza offers deep-dish, skinny, thin and cauliflower crust pizza and hearty meatball and chicken-parmesan sliders, as well as big bowl salads and delicious fresh garlic bread knots.

Hot dates

Night life is hopping at many of the local bars, but for a truly local experience, grab a cord of wood and some food to grill and head for the firepits on Dockweiler State Beach, where early-birds stake out one of 40 first-come-first-serve concrete pits early in the day for a DIY bonfire parties that go until late at night.

Besides the watersports and dining, Marina del Rey has many other entertainment options and special events, such as the new ARTsea Community Festival, and outdoor free movie nights at the Burton W. Chase Park.

Stay and play

If you are visiting from out of town, there are many accommodations from a variety of price points, including the Foghorn Harbor Inn, Jamaica Bay Inn, Hilton Garden Inn Marina Del Rey, Marina del Rey Hotel, and Marina del Rey Marriott. The premier luxury property in town is the marine-themed Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey, which features the world-class Sisley Paris Spa. Even if you don’t stay overnight, its worth getting a spa treatment, which entitles patrons to use the hotel pool all day.

The low-key vibe of Marina del Rey makes it one of LA’s most endearing waterfront areas, with many activities and experiences that are unique to the Marina, due to its boating and watersports culture and the city’s quaint size, relative to the vast city surrounding it. For beachcombers looking for a seaside destination that is scenic but not a scene, Marina is a the perfect port.

 

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Lifestyle

Our delectable, Jucy RV vacation

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We camped out in our Jucy van, and that’s alright with me


Traveling from across the country to Southern California, it would have been impossible or at least vastly expensive to haul all our camping gear with us for a beach camping excursion. Jucy Trailblazer RV was the solution. This tricked-out Dodge Caravan included everything we needed, or almost – for our weekend camping adventure in Malibu.

Despite its small size, this fully equipped camper mini-van amazingly sleeps four: two inside the van, and two “upstairs” in the penthouse. The collapsible tent on top is perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the Jucy RV. Kids love it because they get to climb a ladder to get in it. Inside it is a spacious sturdy tent, with a ceiling high enough that an average-size person, like myself at 5’5” can sit inside comfortably.

The upstairs pop-up room-with-a view features an amazingly comfortable wall-to-wall mat floor for sleeping on or hanging out, mesh flaps to cover the windows for ventilation and bug control, and canvas curtains that insulate from cold and also offer privacy and block out the sun for late sleepers. The interior also has a number of hanging wall pouches for items like flashlights, eyeglasses, cell phones, and anything else you want to keep nearby that you normally have on a bed stand.

Downstairs is where even more fun happens. The inside of the van has four seats, two upfront and two in the back, and a hidden compartment for storage that converts into a table. When it’s time to sleep, the table planks pull out to support the padded panels that become the bed. Jucy thought of a lot of details, such as window shades that affix to the glass with suction cups to block out the light.

The rear of the van opens up to a kitchenette, complete with two butane-powered stove tops, a cabinet for pots and pans, drawers for dishware and a surprisingly spacious refrigerator drawer. The top counter features a sink and food prep area with a cutting board.

The name of the game with Jucy is a turnkey camping adventure. Literally, you crank the ignition, get rolling and you’re on your way to fun. Though our camping outing was only a couple overnights, we ran into others who had been on the road with their Juicy RVs for over a month.

They were a bit more particular, since they practically lived in their van, and they noted small details that could have made their travels easier, such as dishware that compactly stacked together to save room and pans with shorter handles to save space.

While we were told there is air conditioning in the downstairs quarters, the only AC was the in-dash unit for the van, which did not blow strong unless the van was running. We were instructed that the solar panels fueled the van and that we needed to operate the vehicle at least 30 minutes a day to recharge, but we still found that the AC was not functional as we thought it would be.

Because of this we ended up opening the van windows, which did not have screens. Lucky for us in Southern California there are not that many insects, but for other camping locations, rolling down windows without screens would not be practical.

Other small touches that would improve the camper would include a hanger on the ceiling of the penthouse for a lantern.

But other than these rather nit-picking few things, we were very content with our van.  It was easy come, easy go from two sites in two days. We set up and broke down camp within 10 minutes. We were on the road before the RV park could say “late check-out fee,” and the mini-van base drove easily, like a regular car.

We did not even need to bring sleeping bags, because the RV came with optional bedding kits which included a super thick duvet comforter, blankets and two pillows, plus two bath towels. The linens were fresh, fluffy and very clean, in fact, they looked new.

Then comes the best part of all. After our adventure, we drove the van back to the leasing location, and that was that. No hanging out tents and tarps to air out, no deflating air mattresses and re-rolling sleeping bags, no trying to get cookware and gear back into storage boxes and no schlepping gear back on a plane.

It was an easy, breezy, laid-back camping trip, in our Chevy van. It made me recall a groovy Sammy Johns song from the 70s, as I imagine me and my hippy friends rocking and rolling down PCH, like easy riders, ready to park and camp whenever the moment moved us, and that’s alright with me.

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The ultimate Mother’s Day gift guide for every kind of mom

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Moms who love adventure, tech, fashion or beauty will love these awesome Mother’s Day gifts

Full Steam a-dress

Whether it’s a big day at work, date night with Dad, or off for a vacay, Mom always wants to look her dapper best. The lightweight JOY 900-Watt Supreme Steam Go Mini Steamer ($19.95 at HSN.com) makes it easy to remove wrinkles from her shirts, slacks and dresses, at home or wherever she goes. The included zippered bag is perfect for storing it in a closet, car or suitcase.

Foot forward

Start off Mom’s day with positive vibes, from head to toe, starting with her feet.  Notes To Self socks are emblazed with affirming messages like, “I am a Great Mom,” and, “I am Amazing,” and the special Mom gift set ($32.98 for 2 pairs) comes in a pink heart-shaped gift box tied with a satin ribbon.  The ankle-height athletic socks are high-quality cotton-blend with a reinforced soft cuff, breathable mesh top and extra cushioning arch support.

She’s in charge

Mom’s smartphone is her lifeline for work, coordinating kids’ activities, shopping, staying in touch on social media, and everything else she does, so help her keep it charged and ready with the MagicMount Pro Home/Office ($79.99, scosche.com). This stylish stand and wireless magnetic charger mounts at home or the office on a desk or other surface with a stickGRIP suction base and uses Qi wireless charging technology, ideal for the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, so Mom never has to search for and fumble with charger cables. It also features a Optional Apple Watch® Charging Mount that works with lightning charging cable.

A bed for all seasons

Let Mom sleep in on her special day, snuggled in a luxurious Bedgear ensemble. Bedgear Performance Pillows ($99.99 – $199.99) are dreamy clouds of comfort that can be individually personalized for different sleeping positions and body types using a Pillow ID app. Close to her skin, Mom will relish the cool, silky sensation of Ver-Tex Performance Sheets (starting at $299.99), made of a hi-tech quick-dry fabric blend that regulates temperature on the sleeping surface. 

 

To complete Mom’s performance sleeping ensemble,  top it off with a Ver-Tex Medium Warmth Climacore Blanket ($299.99), a cool-to-the-touch, all-season top layer that promotes air flow and dissipates body heat, keeping mom cozy and cool all night long.

See Jane run

Mom works hard, and works out hard, so get her performance exercise apparel that can keep up with her. Endeavor Athletic’s premier women’s Run Short ($58) feature a handy pocket, four-way-stretch fabric panels, moisture wicking technology, and built-in micro-mesh briefs that eliminate the need for an under layer and allow for free movement. Whether she’s training for a quick 5k or an ultra-marathon, these women’s running shorts will help her perform her best.

Get dressed

One dress cannot be everything for everyone, or can it? In the Nuu-Muu ($78-$88), Mom will be suited up for just about anything she’s game for. This flattering and functional slip-on dress comes in an assortment of styles that fit a variety of body types, and its comfortable stretch fabric will keep Mom comfortable no matter what’s she’s doing, from shopping and lunching, to exercise or a walk on the beach. With so many patterns, Mom could have a closet full of these versatile jumpers and wear a different one every day of the month; and if the weather is too chilly for going sleeveless, she can always pull over a Nuu-Muu layering Tee ($62) for warmth that exudes coolness.

 

 

Sleeping in luxury

For the traveling mom, give her a luxury sleep experience on the road, with a Brave Era Travel Sheet. This compact and light-weight, machine-washable 100-percent mulberry silk bed liner folds as compact as an iPhone to fit into a small suitcase or even a purse. Mom can carry it along on her adventures and sleep comfortably, whether she is in a hotel room or on a cot at the airport, knowing that the layer of fabric between her and her sleeping surface is clean and fresh. Moms’ Day sale priced at $79.99.

Good hair day

When Mom hits the road, she can bring her own salon with her, with the HSI Professional Travel Styling Kit ($79.99). It includes a Glider Mini flat iron, Groover Mini curling iron, and Dryonizer Mini blowdryer and two airflow nozzles and a hairstyling clip. With all these accoutrements, mom can have straight hair during the day and fun curls that night and rock any look for her vacation photos.

 

 

Glam ma’am

One mom who has been rockin’ it for four decades as a professional model, and making it look easy, Christie Brinkley, graciously has made her own collection of cosmetics available to make women of all ages look great, without a lot of fuss. As an encore to her line of skincare products, Christie Brinkley Authentic Beauty provides high-quality yet affordable beauty basics in wearable shades that streamline every beauty routine. Perfect for Mother’s Day, the packaging is a feminine and elegant reflective rose gold that will even make mom’s vanity counter look lovely. From $14 to $49.

She wears the pants

Outdoorsy moms can ditch their fancy pants and slip on some comfortable yet rugged Mountain Khakis Crest Teton pants ($79.95). Made for a life lived untucked, these durable pants for adventurers are guaranteed to fit. With styling for fit and function, mom will be ready for whatever the great outdoors can throw at her, and she will look good doing it.

Wonder water

mom likes to stay hydrated for good health, but sometimes water can just be boring, unless she has Cirkul. This cool new concept in flavored water includes a special dispenser bottle with a lid featuring a flavor cartridge. Mom can dial up the intensity of flavor she wants, or she can drink the water straight up, to suit her taste. The cartridges come delivered each month to her doorstep through a subscription program, with a pack of new flavors each month. Because the bottle is reusable, mom can be proud to do her part to save the planet and eschewing disposable plastic bottles. $27 for 8 cartridges per month.

Accessory to style

If mom loves to decorate and surround herself with beautiful things, accessories her with fashionable and functional décor items like a Mermaid Blue Chenille Throw Blanket ($20.99) that she can cuddle up with on the couch watching her favorite show, or a Eucalyptus Leaves Cobblestone Candle ($9.99) she can light up to relax with some mood lighting and aromatherapy. Dress up her dresser with a 2-Tier Jewelry Stand ($14.99) that displays her bobbles and adds a little bling to her décor. All from Kirkland’s

Pretty in pink

She loves her hair to look fabulous, even in high humidity, and with hot-pink-packaged Color Correct Frizz Control system, Mom can smooth her locks and look lovely and smoldering all summer long. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Shampoo ($39.00) features a 100-percent vegan proprietary blend of exclusive oils including Camellia Oil from Japan and Abyssinian Oil from Africa, with seaweed and shea butter, to instantly smooth unruly frizz. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Condition ($39.00) leaves hair vibrant, glossy, and smooth-as-silk while nourishing, detangling and defending hair with color and heat protection. CrazySmooth Anti-Frizz Treatment Masque ($48.00) mends and deeply moisturizes hair with a blend including soybean lipids, seaweed and shea butter, making hair instantly looks up to 10 years younger. RadicallySmooth Anti-Frizz Serum ($28.00) instantly smoothes for long-lasting, frizz-free style with full spectrum UVA/UVB color and heat protection. Available at ColorProof.com.

Well rounded

Give Mom the tools for success, starting with her hair brush. The Ostia Collection’s Round Copper Brush ($24-28) is has a pure copper core that retains and distributes heat evenly for a smoother and healthier finish to Mom’s style. The extra-long Tourmaline bristles and boar strip work together to create the perfect tension for styling. For a static-free styling, she can spray on Ostia Collection 3-in-1 Mist ($18) that smooths and adds shine while hydrating heat-styled hair.

She brings home the bacon, and fries it up in …

The kitchen is Mom’s domain, so give her cookware worthy of her Highness, with the Swiss Diamond XD Nonstick Cookware collection, dubbed the Rolls Royce of cookware.  The XD-double-coated Swiss Diamond Fry Pan Duo ($189.95) features a 9.5-inch and 11-inch frying pans that make the perfect pair for everyday cooking, from a succulent steak to a simple cheese omelet. The extra-thick, cast aluminum body and PFOA-free XD coating, reinforced with real diamonds and a rivet-free cooking surface, offer years of trouble-free cooking, maximum protection against bacteria build up and easy clean-up. The ergonomic handles are designed to fit comfortably in Mom’s hands and are engineered to stay cool on the stovetop. Additionally, both pans are oven safe up to 500°F (260°C).

Out in style

Active Moms need performance clothes that can keep up with them. Whether she’s out shopping or relaxing round the campfire, Craghoppers has an outfit for that, like Insect Shield Luna Tights ($48), the agile travel and adventure leggings that freedom of movement, while providing UPF 50+ sun protection and InsectShield insect-repellent fabric coverage from waist to ankle; or the all-purpose classic Kiwi Long-Sleeve Shirt ($36), a easy wash-and-wear quick-dry poly-cotton shirt with UPF 40+, and NosiDefence insect bite-proof construction to keep off the skeeters and other bugs on the trail.

Wired for sound

Tech savvy audiophile moms love themselves some wireless earbuds, but tangled lines or low- or dead-batteries are a bummer.  With myCharge’s PowerGear Sound ($24.99) Mom will always be charged up and ready to listen to her favorite music or podcast for her daily workout, traveling and anytime she needs to turn on and tune out. This portable protective charging earbud case supplies up to 14x extra battery life and is compatible with Powerbeats 2, Powerbeats 3 and most other Bluetooth earbuds.

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Eat & DrinkLifestyleParenting

Cooking With Kids: How To Keep Them Safe And Happy In The Kitchen

Best Dad Chef Hat

Photo via Pixabay by Mccartyv

While it may seem like the last place you want to let a child loose, the kitchen is actually a great place to teach some lifelong lessons and bond with your little one. Baking and cooking can introduce concepts related to science and math and can teach responsibility; it can also boost self-esteem and confidence, two things many children don’t have enough of.

Of course, there are many safety precautions you’ll need to take. Being safe at the stove and around utensils is the priority, and teaching your child what to do in case of a fire–and how to prevent it from happening in the first place–is extremely important. It may seem like a lot of planning for something that may never happen, but knowing that your child has the right skills and knowledge to get through anything the kitchen may throw at them will give you peace of mind and keep everyone safe and happy.

Here are some of the best things to go over with your child before they begin testing out their chef skills.

Practice fire safety

Talk to your kids about the best fire safety practices. They likely know a little bit about the dangers of fire from school, where they go through drills to keep them safe in the event of an emergency. Think of your time in the kitchen together as a similar form of preparedness and go over the best ways to prevent accidents, such as:

  • Never leaving towels or potholders near the stove
  • Knowing where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it
  • Double-checking to ensure all appliances are turned off when finished
  • Unplugging cords in a safe way
  • Never over-filling pots or pans

It’s also a good idea to make sure all smoke detectors are equipped with fresh batteries and that you have a carbon monoxide detector if your stove is gas-powered. For more tips on how to stay safe from fire hazards, click here.

Find kid-friendly recipes

Many recipes require quite a bit of chopping and measuring, so make sure you find some kid-friendly ones to try with your littles. Look for recipes that don’t have many ingredients and don’t require much cutting; when possible, chop up items before you begin cooking and put them in plastic bags for ease of use.

Set up the rules

It’s important for kids of all ages to learn the rules of the kitchen, which will keep everyone safe. This means washing hands before and after handling food, never tasting anything until it’s fully cooked, and using the right tools for the job. Have an assortment of different utensils–plastic, if possible–and make sure all items stay clean and dry.

Make it fun!

Cooking and baking are great ways to bond with your children and teach them about responsibility, but it should also just be plain old fun. Think of some ideas for seasonal recipes and spend some time learning how to wash, chop, and prepare the ingredients together.

Remember to stay patient as your children are learning the right ways to work in the kitchen; things may get a little messy, but for young ones, that’s half the fun. Talk to them about how to clean up after the work is done and keep the area neat and organized in order to start good habits early.

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Making family memories to last for generations at the Greenbrier

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A visit to the indelible resort steeped in tradition, where families come together to enjoy the grandest things in life

Our Greenbrier adventure began with a bit more excitement than our family had anticipated, when we voyaged to the world-renowned resort on a dark and blustery night.

We decided it was best to travel a day earlier than scheduled, since weather forecasters were predicting a windstorm with 50 mph gusts on the day we had planned to drive. Luckily, the Greenbrier was able to accommodate our request for a day-early arrival, so we headed out at 8:30 PM on a three-and-a-half-hour journey through the Allegheny mountains, from Northern Virginia to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The route past my alma mater James Madison University on Interstate 81 and over the alpine thoroughfares was a bit treacherous, with the gale-force winds pushing our car out of our lane several times, but even more frightening was the caravan of 18-wheeler big rigs passing us, swerving on the verge of tipping from the gusts.

A welcoming to remember

After our harrowing drive, the small quiet town of Sulfur Springs was a welcome sight. As we pulled into the gated entrance to the Greenbrier, the magic began. It was the first day of March, but still the resort was dressed in its winter splendor.

Tree branches aligning the gardens in front of the hotel were adorned with tiny sparkling white lights, giving the hotel the appearance of an enchanted palace. As we cruised into the front roundabout, road-weary and wind-battered, we were greeted warmly by the valet, whose energy seemed unaffected by the squall and the late hour.

The check-in staff facilitated a quick registration and off we went, following the valet’s Lincoln Town Car as he led us through the village of white wooden cottages to our accommodations. Upon entering the cottage, we could not contain our oohs and ahhs. The Legacy Florida Cottage, one of the original guest villas on the perimeter of the main resort building, was a spacious and stately yet an inviting home-away-from-home.

Our intergenerational party, spanning eight decades, from two pre-teen boys to an octogenarian grandmother, all found something – in fact many somethings – of delight.

The housekeeping staff had prepared for our arrival by warming the home to a comfortable temperature and turning on lamps in every room, illuminating the charm and hominess of the residence. After the boys did a quick survey of rooms to pick their favorite — a corner king suite with wild jungle-like draperies with a matching bedspread and upholstered chairs, the adults choose their rooms.

Each of the rooms was distinct in its decor, with vibrant colors, like carpets in hues of fairway-green, velvety purple and royal red, paired with bold and bright stripped, plaid and floral bedding and lounge chairs, each with its own strong character and unique appeal.

 

Worth the drive

Even though it was approaching 1 AM by the time we settled in our cottage, the family sat down at the green-lacquered dining room table for a late-night snack of kettle corn and brownies, that my mom had brought along.

The sugar boost was a guarantee the boys would not be going to sleep anytime soon, so despite the night slipping into early morning hours, we sat and chatted at the table, reliving our treacherous trek to the hotel, relieved now that the storm was in our rearview mirror.  We sat up talking and laughing, relating stories of other memorable road trips, and marveling at our surroundings. It was the kind of stuff that family memories are made of, and the preciousness of those moments did not escape me.

The Greenbrier symbolizes this to me, and I’m sure to many. It is a place that families go to spend quality time, to bond, relax, dine out, play, and just be together, sharing and creating  memories in a beautiful and elegant-yet-approachable environment.

Everywhere around the hotel are sitting spaces that encourage gathering and socializing. These lounge spots come in every variety, from sunny alcoves with floral high-back chairs to dimly lit nooks where masculine leather club chairs surround backgammon tables and chessboards.

 

Strolling the grounds and exploring the massive corridors, elegant parlors and ubiquitous lounges and sitting areas of this old-school resort, built in 1778, one feels transported to another time and place.  Here it would not seem out of the ordinary to see a princess ambling in the garden or strolling the hallowed halls, as in fact Princess Grace of Monaco did, when she visited for an impromptu summer vacation, commemorated by a portrait of her in one of the many great rooms of the hotel.

 

The active life

While the Greenbrier is drenched in opulence, it still presents a relaxing environment for its guests, especially for families. As a place where wellness seekers once flocked to bathe in and imbibe the area’s natural mineral springs, believed to contain healing properties, the resort, while giving way to modest modernization, retains its intention to provide a setting for restoration of mind and body.

The activities around the hotel are designed to promote recreation and enjoyment, from the spa, salon and shopping plaza to the seasonal ice skating rink, bowling alley and arcade.

As an ex-pat from Los Angeles, where many ultramodern hotels are steeled in chrome and glass, exuding a hardness and coolness that pervades even the people that inhabit them, I relished the aura of the Greenbrier, where a soul can meld with its beauty and feel at ease, in laid-back luxury.

The small gymnasium overlooking the indoor swimming pool was a place I keenly felt this sense of ease. There a person could exercise and watch children play in the pool, as parents with averagely toned bodies walked comfortably in their swim suits, in a tranquil setting, without the bombardment of loud music and the intimidation of hard-bodied models parading about in bikinis; but, perhaps I am extrapolating too much from my last Palm Springs vacation.

 

Living history

As a historic landmark, there is plenty to see at the Greenbrier, from galleries of fine artwork and portraits of presidents, royalty, celebrities, sports stars and other distinguished Greenbrier guests, to salons designed by the legendary Dorothy Draper and remnants of political and social history, including a cold-war bunker, which is the subject of one of the most popular tours on the property.

On the Bunker Tour, guests can explore the once top-secret fall-out shelter under a wing of the hotel, comprised of spartan barracks and living quarters created for Congress in the 1950s, in the case of a nuclear attack on the nation’s capital.

Among the most popular activities and a Greenbrier tradition since the 1930s is afternoon tea, served daily in the grand upper lobby, where guests can enjoy a sophisticated tête-à-tête while nibbling gourmet pastries and listening to the soft strains of live classical piano music.

Other favorite experiences include rides in a horse-drawn carriage around the property, cooking, painting and knitting workshops, or, for the athletic, sporting activities at world-class facilities for golf and tennis – which have hosted sports greats such as tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams and the late golf legend Sam Sneed, who served at the pro emeritus in his last years.

Other resort activities include adventure offerings, such as horseback riding, falconry, skeet shooting, fishing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. For those who want to try their luck at gaming, the resort hosts the world-class Casino Club, where guests are treated to a champagne toast and a choreographed waltz performance at 10 pm nightly, and guests and bust a move themselves at the 42 Below dance club.

For kids, there’s a plethora of activities, from laser tag in the Bunker space to family friendly movies in the on-property cinema. The Adventure Zone center provides a number of experiences, such as an Alpine Tower for climbing and an Aerial Adventure Course, which we braved as a family activity, tight-rope walking and crossing a series of swinging and dangling challenges 60-feet in the air, with safety harnesses, of course.

In all, there are about 55 activities at the Greenbrier, so it would be hard to find yourself doing nothing at all, unless that is what you choose, which is also a popular option at the resort.

Dining to celebrate

Of course, one of the most celebrated activities at the Greenbrier is dining. The resort features six restaurants and three seasonal restaurants and cafés and five bars and lounges, along with 24-hour room service.

Each day of our visit we enjoyed the lavish breakfast buffet, which included omelet and Belgian waffle stations and just about every breakfast entrée imaginable, from the basics of fruit and yogurt to egg casseroles, keeping trays of bacon and sausage, and a good southern standby of chipped beef gravy and biscuits.

The former Main Dining Room, for which guests must adhere to the resort’s dress code, i.e., jackets and ties for the gentlemen and cocktail attire for the ladies, is known for its exquisite service and menu.  Certainly, the five-star service and the famed Prime Filet of Beef Tenderloin should not be missed in the Main Dining Room, though several other restaurants on the property have outstanding fare.

Our party was most impressed with our delectable meal at Prime 44 West, the high-end sports restaurant and steakhouse named after the legendary West Virginian NBA player Jerry West, who wore the namesake’s number on his uniform. The atmosphere, service and our meal at 44 West was extraordinary from start to end, beginning with the Seafood Platter, progressing to the perfectly cooked Bone-in Rib-Eye and Lobster Mash Potatoes, to the big finish of the flaming Dark Cherry Flambé with Kirsh, prepared tableside.

 

The kids loved the causal Draper’s cafe, not just for the generous frozen scoops of heaven at the ice cream bar, but also because they serve the best Fried Green Tomato Sandwich and Creamy Chicken Pot Pie this side of anywhere. There’s plenty excellent offerings there for adults as well, like the signature Dorothy’s Chicken Salad and the comforting Country Shrimp and Grits. Besides the food, the atmosphere and décor is pure fun, featuring high-backed pink-and-white-striped booths, an homage to Dorothy Draper, the designer whose audacious color schemes give the resort its distinctive flair.

Service with a smile

At the restaurants and at every venue within the resort, the service was exceptional, attentive and friendly. In speaking to the staff, many voluntarily expressed their pleasure to work at the Greenbrier, where they said they were treated like family.

One of the maîtres told us she had been with the Greenbrier just three months, which made her a “embryo” compared to the staff who had been there for decades, some for generations, following in the footsteps of their parents, and their parents before them.

I told her the Greenbrier reminded me of Downton Abbey, the fictitious British castle featured in one of my favorite TV shows, in which the loyal employees-for-life were an intrinsic part of the estate. The analogy made her smile widely.  “I love that comparison,” she said. “The people who work here feel that same kind of love for the Greenbrier.”

A few days at the Greenbrier is not enough to fully explore and appreciate all that the destination called “America’s Resort” has to offer, but it was a good start.

Our last night, after a wonderful, leisurely dinner in the Main Dining Room, at nearly 10 pm, we called up the porter to help light our fireplace. It was late to start a fire, which we would have to stay awake to tend until it burned out, but we wanted to make the night last.  And so, we did.  We stayed up all night, relaxing by the hearth, retelling stories of our adventures of the past days, into the next day.

As we were checking out the next day, I picked up brochure in the lobby.  It described the Greenbrier, as “Life as few know it.” I would have to agree that the splendid experience of a Greenbrier getaway is not something that everyone can do all the time, just as we cannot, and would not want to, eat caviar every day, or it would lose its specialness; but it is an extraordinary treat. 

A visit to the Greenbrier is among those experiences that one can truly call marvelous, and one that our family will always remember, and hopefully come back to enjoy, again, and again.

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Ogden’s small-town charm and big-time skiing

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The amiable Utah city that never stops making a name for itself hosts an epic spring snow sports season

There’s no equivalent to “Indian summer” for a winter that lingers into the next season, but mountain resorts in Utah would be using that phrase a lot this year. Spring skiing, usually when the snow pack melts and ski conditions are marginal, is anything but typical in 2018; in fact, it’s quite a phenom. With heaps of powdery snow amounting in several weeks to the total of what the entire winter season produced, Utah’s ski slopes are experiencing peak conditions that promise to continue through at least late spring.

In order to enjoy this wondrous windfall, ushering in a spring break of epic proportions, I headed to the slopes-less-traveled, in Ogden, the best-kept secret of Utah ski country. This tiny town 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, borders a trio of local ski areas that offer everything Park City, Deer Valley, Sundance and their other better-known neighbors do, and they do it in a charming and humble way.

How now, Pow Wow

My first stop was Powder Mountain, also known as “Pow Mow,” the apt-named high-altitude playground that owns no snowmaking machines and relies completely on nature’s precipitation. The quaint Sun Down Lodge, with only one ticket window, looks more like a family cabin on the mountainside than a lodge, and the staff there treat you like an old friend. Because Powder Mountain limits lift tickets to 1,500 per day, even on a busy day, there is never a crowd or a long wait at their nine chairlifts. And because fewer skiers and boarders means less stress on the terrain, the runs stay preserved long after a dump of snow.

Purists favor Powder Mountain for its dedication to providing a next-to-natural experience, down to its use of CAT snowmobiles to transport skiers and riders to areas of the mountain where chairlifts are inaccessible. Powder Mountain is the place that many of the locals go, because of its mom-and-pop feel, and it’s known for its family friendly atmosphere, where people are courteous to each other, especially the staff, just like a small town where everyone knows each other.

In keeping with their reputation as a family ski destination, Powder Mountain has lots of mellow runs over their approximately 8,500 acres of terrain, with 167 runs with a variety of slopes for learners and skiers and riders of all levels, with 25 percent beginner runs, 40 percent intermediate and 35 percent advanced.

Laid back luxury at Snowbasin

For those who enjoy a more extravagant ski vacation experience, the Ogden area offers Snowbasin. While some of the local mountains are distinguished as ski areas, Snowbasin is unmistakably a resort, and the difference is notable from the moment you drive up. The large luxury Earl’s Lodge resembles an alpine country club, with a flagstone exterior, giant hearths in the entryway, floral wallpaper worthy of a ballroom, and large padded leather chairs under massive chandeliers.

Like its decor, Snowbasin’s service appeals to the luxury-loving crowd, with such amenities as bins for guests to check in their belongings, versus the lockers found at most ski venues. These handy receptacles not only add an element of convenience for visitors, they keep the lounge areas uncluttered with ski jackets, boots and other accoutrement that guests tend to pile up while they are unwinding in the lodge.

Another popular amenity that speaks to Snowbasin’s service orientation is their cell phone recharging service, which allows guests to securely leave behind their smartphones to get a quick battery boost, since most guests don’t come equipped with a chargers or spare batteries. All around, the staff is eager to serve, making everything easier for guests, with full-services touches like loading guest’s’ skis for them on the gondola.

Snowbasin is also renowned for its chef-driven culinary excellence. A far cry from the standards of chili, burgers and fries of many ski lodges, the resort features a plethora of restaurant options, and each cafeteria has their own signature gourmet burger. During my visit to the Needles Lodge, 9,000 feet up at the top of the Needles Gondola, I tried the “Bum Burger,” loaded with corned beef, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. The burger was a satisfying meal by itself, but I was persuaded to also try an oversized chocolate chip cookie, made with a family recipe of the resort owners, which was well worth the calories.

All the extraordinary service aside, Snowbasin is most famous for its world-class skiing, literally, as the site of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games men’s and women’s downhill, super G and combined races. For Olympics enthusiasts, the gondolas are each named after an Olympic competitor, which can make the ride to the summit a fun game of name spotting.

While there’s plenty of Olympic-level double-black-diamond territory for the brave, for the rest of us, the 3,000 acres of terrain incorporates 106 trails with breakdown of 10% beginner and 60% intermediate runs, with the remainder of 30% designated as advanced trails, covering every level of skier and rider.

Third’s a charm

During my trip out to the Ogden area, the region’s third ski area, Nordic Valley, also known as Wolf Mountain, had called the season early, but this little recreational oasis, renowned for its quaintness and family-friendly atmosphere, along with its legendary night skiing and cross-country ski experiences, is definitely on my list to visit on my next trip to Utah ski country. It’s tiny, with approximately hundred 120 acres of terrain, with just a few chairlifts, but it’s big on heart. It’s also big on accommodating skiers at the intermediate level, with about 50% of its 22 runs designated as blue; but they have plenty of terrain for all levels, with approximately 20 percent of the mountain designed as appropriate for beginners and 20 percent for advanced skill levels.

In town

Ogden may seem like a small town, but there’s plenty of après ski options for those who like to come off the mountain and warm up with a cold beer or a cocktail. And for those who don’t hit the slopes, there’s lots of other exploits in Ogden, for those with a taste for adventure or just those with taste.

For a quick history tour combined with good food and shopping, there’s the 25th Street strip.

The architecture of this artsy area has been well preserved, giving the place the look of an old-style western film set, where one can easily imagine the town’s former gun slinging inhabitants raising a ruckus in the saloons and brothels where now stand fashionable boutiques, restaurants, galleries, bookstores and coffee shops.

Our lunch party stopped into Roosters, which we found was all that Yelpers crow about. Housed in the former Eccles Lumber Company building, this bustling brewhouse offers their own home-brewed beer and root beer and features inventive appetizers, like Beehive Cheese Curds, a variety of hearty Mexican entrees, generously portioned salads and stacked sandwiches, along with pizzas and some signature dishes, like Roosters Beer Battered Fish and Chips. In addition to the flavorsome food, the upper floor offers a great view into the windows of the historic Belle London building, now an ice cream shop, where in Ogden’s early days women of the night tossed beans onto passersby below to get their attention, and maybe their patronage.

For authentic Italian, Rovali’s Restorante Italiano on 25th Street offers homemade pastas, a vast drink selection and homemade desserts from their own bakery. They also feature live music every weekend, with local and national musicians.

Guns and cowboys

The 25th Street district is flanked by Union Station, a landmark holdover from the days when Ogden was frequented by railroad carloads of bankers from all over the US, who flocked there for the liberal lending laws, which made Ogden once notable as the city with the most millionaires per capita.

The old train depot now houses four museums, chock full of exhibits commemorating the town’s history as a hub for gun making, trains, cars and cowboys. The cavernous hall recently began hosting a winters farmer’s market with local sellers offering crafts, foodstuff, collectables and gift items amid a festive atmosphere with entertainment and art displays.

Another notable venue in town is the Eccles Conference Center, a modern and impressive complex that hosts large events, such as a jazz dinner that I attended, where I was served a fabulous steak and lobster dinner that rivaled any five-star restaurant and which was absolutely the best meal I’ve ever had at a convention hall.

Indoor adventure

Ogden’s just the right size town to get around in on foot, if the weather’s decent, or by taking a quick Lyft around to explore its sights. In a small metro area, Ogden is dense with some exciting attractions, all grouped within a radius of a few blocks. The Solomon Center in the middle of town features indoor skydiving at iFly, wave pool surfing at Flowrider, indoor rock climbing at iRock, and an arcade full of activities at Fat Cats, including bowling, billiards and miniature golf.

One local attraction that I was thrilled to discover was Social Axe Throwing, which is everything its name promises. Similar to a bowling alley, but with chain-link cages with a huge target painted on plywood at one end of each lane, this venue offers patrons the opportunity to sling sharp metal hatchets into a wall. With a short lesson in safety and technique, within minutes I was nailing it with a satisfying slice into the wood bullseye.

I was intrigued to learn that patrons are permitted to bring their own alcoholic beverages, which they can imbibe behind the saloon doors in the back of the establishment, but because the range resides within 600 feet of a Mormon temple, serving alcohol is prohibited. This got me thinking that maybe it’s just as well that booze is tightly managed when it comes to hurling razor-sharp implements across a room.

The real deal

If retail therapy is what gets your adrenaline pumping, there are some adorable independent shops along 25th Street downtown as well as the 85-store Newgate Mall and some big box stores in town. Determined to get a fitting Ogden souvenir, I scouted every outdoors clothing store in town for a flannel shirt when I stumbled upon Recreation Outlet, a mammoth discount outdoor war and gear warehouse.

Crammed with surplus goods, including a basement wall-to-wall with boxes brimming with merchandise, on the shelves, tables and floors, this clearinghouse could overwhelm even the most seasoned bargain shopper. Here I finally found a pink plaid women’s flannel shirt, along with a few things I didn’t really need, like four pairs of premium ski socks, a couple face guards, and my best bargain, pliers and a screwdriver for $0.89 apiece.

Another find for bargain hunters, particularly those renting ski equipment is the Outdoor Equipment Rental Center at Weber State University. If you can locate the unassuming shed-like building on the college’s campus, you can get great deals on ski gear packages, for as little as $25 a day, or less if you are a student. The staff is friendly and helpful, though you won’t find experienced professionals like you might get at a resort or a sporting goods rental shop; but if you know what you need, you can save some bucks.

Stay around

Where to stay in Ogden will not be a decision that takes you long to make, because options are limited, but there is some variety in the handful of inns. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, in the heart of downtown Ogden, directly across from the Solomon Center. The hotel has all the amenities a short-term traveler needs, and if you book early you might be lucky enough to reserve one of the seven suites with a fireplace and jacuzzi. Other options for accommodations include the only luxury property in town, the Bigelow Hotel, as well as many offerings of bed and breakfasts, vacation homes, and when in season, RV parks and campgrounds.

Ogden Culture

The town once known as a den of gunslingers and card players has evolved over the last century to its current cosmopolitan state, and as someone who had not traveled to the Salt Lake City region in a while, I was amazed to see how much the culture has transformed.

The Mormon church still has a strong influence on the area, though unlike many years ago, there are now very few restrictions on alcohol consumption. One leftover of the old days however is that on Sundays most establishments are closed. Our party was fortunate to find Sonora Grill downtown was serving dinner on a Sunday night, or else we might have gone hungry.

Besides the remnant blue laws, Ogden resembles and feels like any other small town, where the folks are friendly, and visitors are welcomed warmly. By the end of my five-day stint in the town, I knew my way around, and I walked the streets in the evening without a worry. I got on a first-name basis with some of the shopkeepers and hospitality hosts, and even some of their family members. It was no wonder to me that many of the locals told me they had never wandered far from Ogden, nor did they need to or want to.

For some the appeal of Ogden is the fresh air, the outdoors attractions, and of course the epic skiing and snowboarding. For others, it’s the close-knit community and the low-key, laid-back lifestyle.

It’s a place with a lot of history and a lot of progressive changes, yet it’s a place that very much wants to stay the same. It’s the kind of place where you can leave your front door unlocked and trust thy neighbor, and where the robberies and crimes you read about in Ogden are those in the history books.

 

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The share economy teaches us a lesson we learned as toddlers

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Letting others use our stuff, sharing experiences and our space with strangers is creating new livelihood and a new of life for those who care to share

All aboard a Boatsetter yachting experience in Marina Del Rey, California, where boat owners host guests for a private cruise experience for an evening or overnight

Our parents told us it was good manners to share our toys when we were kids. Taking turns and letting others play with our treasured possessions kept things peaceful on playdates. As we got older though, most of us stopped this practice. We lived by, “What’s mine is mine and yours’s is yours,” that is, until recently.

With the dawn of the share economy about a decade ago, when people began to accept money to share rides and even their homes with others, society started to look differently at personal assets, regarding them as opportunities to enhance our lives, both monetarily and personally.

The truth is, there’s plenty to go around, and in an ideal world, if we just let others use our things when we aren’t using them, then no one would be without. Imagine the resources we could save by not buying stuff that we only need occasionally.

Consider the freedom of using things for which you do not have to assume risk and responsibility or need to store, maintain, register or license. It seems so logical, but until five years ago, there was no such thing as a share economy. Now, you can share just about anything, and just like when we were kids, everyone wins.

Uber was the first ride share service to take off. This innovative company built an app that allowed just about anyone with a street-legal car to connect with riders who would pay drivers for sharing their ride. The idea was to give transportation to people who were already going your way, and those passengers would compensate you, essentially sharing the cost of the gas and upkeep on your car. It was such as great idea, ride share companies like Lyft, Opoli and others soon got on board.

An Opoli driver takes a client out for a ride in style

Of course, it ended up that more cars, not fewer, ended up on the road, and Uber and the others became basically cheaper and less-regulated taxis. But the sharing economy was born, and a new mentality emerged, whereby society began sharing all sorts of things, and sharing opened up new realms of possibilities and experiences that continue to evolve into a new way of living for tens of millions of people.

Not only does sharing eliminate the need for ownership of expensive things that we only use occasionally, it provides unique opportunities between people of all backgrounds, and in some cases it can be an equalizer between the have and have nots, and it can open up new markets where none existed.

Airbnb allows people to sublet or share their homes, providing a new source of income for hosts and opening up affordable travel to people for whom the cost of hotels was prohibitive. In some cases, Airbnb might be the only accommodations in remote areas where there are no hotels, bringing visitors to previously off-the-grid destinations.

Airbnb allows anyone with extra space to rent it out to strangers, and visitors can find affordable accommodations in cities or places where no other lodging is available

Even travelers with ample budgets often opt for Airbnb accommodations, preferring the privacy of renting of an entire home, the experience of staying embedded in a cool neighborhood, or the companionship of residing with a host, who might share a cup of coffee in the morning or even take guests on a shopping outing, site-seeing tour, surfing adventure or other paid experience.

Soon riffs on home sharing evolved, like Boatsetter, a peer-to-peer boat rental marketplace which connects boatowners with guests who want to enjoy an adventure on the water. The owners can invent experiences in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Barcelona, where boatowners host guest on experiences such as deep sea fishing, whale watching or a Live Like a Star party boat ride on a yacht or even a sleepover on a boat with breakfast included.

Though not quite as glamourous as a yacht cruise, TravelCar, which has a fleet of hundreds of cars available in Los Angeles and San Francisco, offers users the opportunity for travelers to rent a car at a discounted rate from a private owner, usually while the owner is traveling. The host receives a portion of the rental fee and gets free airport parking and a car wash in exchange for lending out their vehicle, and if they host as part of TravelCar’s monthly program, TravelCar provides routine maintenance, such as oil changes, wiper fluid, and tire rotation.

Of course, you don’t have to own a home, boat or even a car to be part of the share economy.  Pavemint allows those with parking spaces to lease them out short- or long-term. In Los Angeles, where the company recently launched, already hosts with more than 4,000 parking spaces have signed up to loan out their driveways and unused office building parking lots. Besides bringing in a little spending money to the hosts, utilizing empty parking spots and offering guaranteed parking to visitors has helped boost business in city neighborhoods, like Hollywood, where safe parking – or any parking — is scarce.

Pavemint allows those with a parking spot to let others use it for the hour, day, week or longer

The success of Uber, Airbnb and spinoffs has spawned many other types of share services, particularly in large cities, where companies vie to be the Uber of their lot, like Bird, a Southern California company that rents stand-up electric scooters through a mobile phone app, allowing riders to find and activate scooters that are at depots throughout Santa Monica, Venice and other neighborhoods in Los Angeles and San Diego, for a cost of $1 per ride and 15 cents per minute.

Then there’s LimeBike, a smart bike sharing company with more than 35 regional locations in cities and college campuses across the US including  Seattle, Washington D.C., Dallas, and Miami. Even Uber, through its subsidiary Jump Bike, has gotten into the two-wheeler share space, offering hosts the opportunity to lease out their bikes in San Francisco, with a fleet of 250 bikes and growing, and plans to soon to expand into other cities.

Bike rentals by the hour or day allow tourists to cruise like locals

With all sharing propositions, there are pros and cons, for both hosts and users. While hosts and their properties are supposed to meet certain standards, sometimes they all short. Likewise, guests and leases are bound to rules of conduct and care that they do not always follow. There are risks to personal property and personal safety in some cases, that both parties accept, which is stated in the fine print of the terms of service to which they agree before participating in the service.

Not only are there risks of letting others use our things, but there are risks to sharing our identity and financial information when we participate in the share economy. According to cybersecurity expert, David Thomas, CEO of Evident ID, “While the sharing economy makes services and goods more accessible than ever, it also asks users to interact with people they do not know and may not trust. That’s why it is important to understand the level of verification and security a sharing economy provider has in place for its community.”

While there are isolated horror stories, with the extreme of Uber driver murders and reports of Airbnb thefts and vandalism, for the most part, sharing works. The benefit of sharing is not just new sources of passive revenue for property owners and wages for many people in need of flexible hours – the old retort when someone in LA claims to be an actor, “Really? What restaurant?” is now, “Really? Uber or Lyft?” – it is also a cleaner environment, a healthier lifestyle, accessibility of affordable transportation and accommodations for travelers, and the advent of new ways for us to interact with each other as a society.

When our parents encouraged us to share as kids, our playdates were more enjoyable and peaceful, and everyone was happier. It has taken us generations as a society to learn that truth that we accepted as young children. Sharing is caring. When we share, we all benefit, in untold and immeasurable ways. As we continue to invent new ways to share, we expand our economy and our minds, and we might not just make some extra money but make a new bestie.

 

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EasyKicks a shoo-in for parents who are always buying kids footwear

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If the shoe fits, wear it; if it doesn’t click on another pair, with EasyKicks shoe club for kids

Finally, a subscription service that is easy for me and a real kick for my kid. EasyKicks is a monthly service where subscribers pay a $20 monthly fee and get to pick and have shipped a new pair of Nike or Converse shoes, as they need them.

One of the most interesting elements of this subscription service is that the shoes come delivered to your door in a personalized box, decorated with kid-friendly graphics to boot, and when you take out the new pair of shoes, you put in an old pair of shoes and ship them back In a prepaid envelope for donation or recycling.

You can even put a couple pairs or more in the box, to go to a good cause. Either way, if your gently used shoes find their way to foster kids in need or if they are recycled through Nike grind, they go to a good cause and are kept out of landfills. They may even become materials to make playground surfaces.

The program allows you to swap out your “kicks,” as they call shoes, as often as you need to, at no extra cost. They send along a guide for measuring feet, with instructions, so you’re sure you get the right size. They even include a shoe-print shaped magnet that resembles those old-fashioned measuring devices in shoe stores, so you can slap it on the fridge and always have it handy.

The on-demand subscription concept came about as a way to end the stress of shopping for kids shoes, and the frustration of buying new shoes for kids to only have them wear them out or outgrow them in a month.

Once you ship off a pair of shoes to swap, you can go to your online account and order a new pair. Your membership allows you to keep one pair at a time, but you can order a new pair before you send your old pair back. But if you try to order another pair, a note on the website will let you know you need to first swap out a pair to get a new pair. You can swap out shoes as often as you need to, but measure often, as pediatricians recommend measuring kids feet for resizing every 90 days. Sure enough, at the third month of my membership, my son had already gone up a half size.

If you ever decide to end your membership, they ask that you send back your old EasyKicks, unless you’ve had them for at least 90 days, in which case they are yours to keep.

The shoes selections are a little limited, with only Nike and Converse brands, but considering those are pretty much the only brands my son wears, it was a good match for us. When I last checked the selection, for my son size, there were more than 40 styles from which to choose.
My son loves to look through the styles himself, and he much prefers to tap on a picture online then for me to drag him to a shoe store to try on the shoes.

For families with many kids, you can set up a profile for each child, which includes the child’s name, age and shoe size. They don’t have a discount for multiple kids in a family at this time, but they do often have promotions to save money, like $5 off the first month of membership with a three-month commitment; and they have a gift membership for a year that is $200.

It figures it took busy parents to come up with this idea of a kids show club, and ironically the founders are shoe industry veterans who happened to notice how quickly their own kids outgrew shoes, and they decided to do something to give busy parents a break and to give worn-out shoes a second life.

 

EasyKicks is backed by Nike, which is why the service get access to the latest sneaker styles and gets the best deals in the market. When I did the math, not only did the cost come out to be a steal, the time and energy I saved was priceless.

 

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Kids that can’t keep still build better brains

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Research shows physical activity fuels kids brains

A new study found that kids who get extra physical activity tend to pay more attention in school and perform better in subjects like reading and math. It’s important that parents find fun physical activities that kids will want to put down the controller and get off the couch to participate in, especially during the colder months when kids are developing cabin fever from staying indoors all day.

Kilian Saekel, CEO of A-Champs, an interactive gaming system that encourages kids to move and play, offers the following ideas on physical activities that kids can do in the comfort of their living room to fuel their brains:

  • Throw a dance party– Kids love dancing and they tend not to think of it as a physical activity, but it does raise your heart rate a significant amount if you throw yourself into it! Crank up some music and let kids create their own dance routines, have dance-off contests, or put on classics like the Macarena and the Electric Slide for choreographed fun.
  • Living room obstacle course– Set up an obstacle course in your living room with stations such as crawling under a sheet or through a tunnel, hopscotch using hula hoops, carrying a ping pong ball on a spoon from one side of the room to the other and rolling up towels to use as a balance beam. You can also have kids use their imagination to create their own stations.
  • Creative twist on reading– Read a book aloud together with your child and when they want to pass the reading duties along to another person they have to do an exercise move such as a jumping jack, sit up or push up.
  • Set the stage– Have kids make up a play or reenact an existing story that involves them acting out different motions such as swimming across an ocean, climbing up a tree or running a marathon. Parents can also shout out different actions that the children have to incorporate into their stories.
  • Put on a video– Introduce kids to new forms of exercise by putting on instructional videos for yoga poses or Zumba and Tae Bo moves. Introduce at least one new pose or move every week and have kids do reps of each one every day.
  • Stick to what kids love – Kids love technology and there are various apps and games that aim to get kids off the couch and participating in physical activities. NFL Play 60 and ROXs are both great options to expose kids to tech without sitting in front of a television.

 

 

 

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Lifestyle

Survivalists laugh last

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People who prepare for the worst are the ones who save themselves, and others

A lot of jokes are made about fervent survivalists, and they are sometimes the subjects of ridicule, like the character Freida, played by Dale Soules, in the Showtime series Orange is the New Black. Many fans were intrigued to learn that the actress Soules in real life was raised up in a home without running water and was a practitioner of many of the survival skills she demonstrated on screen.

 

But in the end, just like on the show, the survivalists come out on top, and often they also end up saving the skeptics around them. 

 

Sometimes it pays to be paranoid, and in all cases, it never hurts to be overprepared. None of us wants to face the possibility of a threat or disaster, natural or man-made, but there are some basics survival tips that every person should know. 

 

The recent cold snaps on the East Coast, in some areas involving heavy snow and icy roads, confined many people to their homes for several days, and others were trapped on the road or outdoors. Having the right tools, supplies and knowledge could make the difference between life and death in these situations.

 

If you are ever involved in a disaster, do not count on FEMA or other governmental groups to come to your rescue. While in an ideal world, these organizations are there to aid American citizens, the best advice is for every individual citizen to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

 

The most elemental of survival kits will include emergency survival food, water filtration supplies, power and lighting supplies, a first aid kit and medicine, cooking implements, and a means to create fire.

 

If you’re not sure where to start in putting together a survival kit, check out a specialist supply company, like My Patriot Supply. A company that features one-stop shopping for a wide array of products depending on your needs is much better than trying to put together a kit piecemeal from a variety of sources. Plus, using a supply source that is utilized by a number of hard-core survivalists will give you a great idea of the quality of the items according to online reviews. In general, consumers of this type of equipment are rather serious about it, and the reviews are likewise serious, and reliable.

 

Whether you are building a kit for yourself, as a single person, or if you are maintaining a kit for a family or a community, it is best to get professional guidance on what supplies and quantities you will need, based on likely disasters or emergencies that you might encounter. Preparedness is assuring, but a surplus is a waste. 

 

Besides going to reliable websites, like My Patriot Supply, you can also find a number of great books that will educate you on everything from growing your own organic fruits and vegetables to living in drought conditions.

 

While it’s hard to prioritize survival knowledge, first aid is probably the most critical, as a minor injury could turn into a major one if not treated properly, and preparedness for stings, sprains, burns, allergies, and fractures, which are some of the most common injuries, can help alleviate the distraction of minor injuries in a situation where all your critical faculties are needed.

 

The key to surviving a life-threatening situation is preparedness. No matter how many public service announcements are broadcast or community workshops held, most of us think we have time to do this, and we put it off. As those who have lived through harrowing experiences can attest, self-reliance will be your savior, so don’t wait to safeguard yourself, and your family.

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