Tuesday, May 30, 2023

We’re officially AirBnb owners!!! 🍾

Taking a break from graduation related content to share this exciting news with you - We are officially Airbnb owners!!! My husband and I had been talking about owning a vacation rental for a couple of years now. However, we wanted to wait until Courtney has made her college decision. We always put the kids’ education first. If she decided to commit to an expensive school, we had to hold off the purchase for a little while longer but thankfully, she went with an afforable option =) In March, we were ready to pull the trigger. Wasn't sure where to start, what to do at first but with the help of family and amazing friends, our condo in St. Pete Beach is listed and available for booking on Airbnb and VRBO. My husband worked extremely hard to turn an empty condo to a fully furnished one within a week. Very grateful to marry a man who's handy. I am always amazed by his ability to fix just about anything. There is something to be said for not having to wait for things to get done around the house. I love St. Pete Beach and am thrilled to call this place our home away from home.
A bit about the condo: Located on the 12th fairway of Isla Del Sol Yacht and Country Club's 18-hole championship golf course. The unit is recently remodeled and newly furnished. Everything in the condo is 100% brand new from furniture, washer/dryer to linen and kitchen utensils. The condo is just minutes from the warm, turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, downtown St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Treasure Island, Tierra Verde, Fort DeSoto State Park and Fort DeSoto’s North Beach, one of America’s top beaches. Visiting Isla Del Sol is a way to take an island vacation without leaving the country. If you and your family are looking for a place to stay in St. Pete Beach this summer, we would love to host you =)

Saturday, May 27, 2023

She did it πŸŽ“ Class of 2023

Last weekend, Courtney graduated Summa Cum Laude and I couldn't be more proud of her. If you ask me 'What is your greatest accomplishment?" My answer would be my children. Nothing makes me happier than having a solid relationship with my kids and seeing them happy. I am and always will be their greatest support system. Close friends and family gathered last Sunday to celebrate her accomplishments. We will be celebrate her 18th birthday and graduation in a couple of weeks. Hope you enjoy your long weekend! Outfit details: White blazer | White shorts | Chanel medium classic flap

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Happy Mother's Day πŸ’

Happy Mother's Day to all the incredible Moms out there. You're the epitome of love, strength and selflessness. My family spoils me today for sure. My husband got me a pair of pearl earrings which I wanted for a long time. I’ve been looking for a pair of classic pearl earrings for work and I couldn’t be happier with what I got. The girls got me flowers and made me homemade cards. I wanted to share what they wrote because nothing in this world worth more than these cards. I bawled my eyes out reading what Courtney wrote me. Raising a teenager is hard, raising a teenager who is splitting between 2 families is 10 times harder. Each family has different perspectives and they’re not always aligned. 14 years ago, when my previous marriage going through the darkest time, I wasn't sure how my life was going but I promised myself that I will always love Courtney unconditionally and support her no matter what. I feel like I can finally gave myself a pat in the back and said “I did it”. I am forever grateful for this incredible bond we have built. Courtney is graduating next week and words cannot describe how proud I am of her. Outfit details: Express rompers

Monday, May 1, 2023

She is committed :: Happy National College Decision Day

Today is National College Decision Day and I couldn't be happier to share that my first born is committed to The Ohio State University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences - Honors Program. After 1.5 years of working on college applications, writing 22 essays, applying for scholarships, the journey has come to an end. I think it's important to understand how much colleges cost nowadays. Acceptance rates are getting super competitive and downright crazy! OSU received 78000 applications this year. I wanted to share some numbers just in case you have a junior/senior who is getting ready to start the college application process. Courtney applied to 10 colleges (8 accepted, 2 waitlisted).

• First choice: Boston University (Waitlisted). Sticker price: $80/year
• Second choice: University of Pittsburgh (Accepted). Sticker price: $48K/year. No scholarships offered
• Third choice: The Ohio State University (Accepted). Sticker price: $26K/year. Scholarships: $2K since we're in state
• Fourth choice: Stony Brook University (Accepted). Sticker price: $47K/year. Scholarships: $11K
• Case Western Reserve University (Waitlisted). Sticker price: $83K/year (That's insane!). If she gets accepted, she'll receive $25K in scholarships
• University of Cincinnati (Accepted). Sticker price: $26K/year. No scholarships offered.
• University of Toledo (Accepted). Sticker price: $30K/year. Scholarships: $6K
• Temple University (Accepted). Sticker price: $45K/year. Scholarships: $20K
• Penn State University - Main Campus (Accepted). Sticker price: $52K/year. No scholarships offered.
• University at Chicago Illinois (Accepted). Sticker price: $40K/year. Scholarships: $8K

Even though University of Pittsburgh was our top choice, it just doesn't make sense to pay $48K vs. $24K per year at The Ohio State University. No undergrad degree is worth $200K. The goal is to graduate undergrade school debt free and put her college savings towards a med school. We are not planning to take on loans for her undergrad degree. Because we're in Ohio, we tend to underrate OSU but it truly is a great school. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the James Cancer Hospital are nearby. The James Cancer Hospital is the 3rd largest cancer hospital in the nation. There are plenty of resources all across campus to get great experiences in shadowing, research, volunteering for pre-med students. We are thrilled with the decision.We survived this crazy process. Courtney is super excited for the next chapter of her life. As much as I want her to spread her wings, I am thankful to have her close by for another 4 years.

{Toured Case Western Reserve University} {Toured University of Pittsburgh} {Toured The Pennsylvania State University}

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Senior Prom 2023 πŸ–€

Courtney went to her senior prom last night. I could cry looking at these photos. When it comes to class, brains and beauty, this girl seems to have it all. I am so incredibly proud of the young woman she has become. Prom dress shopping was a breeze this year. We spent 30 minutes looking and she found the one. Thank goodness it wasn't as expensive as the one from last year. Can't believe my first born will be graduating in the few short weeks. Picked up her cap and gown, senior photos are done, college decision is made, housing deposit is paid, roommate is found. Working on her graduation/18th birthday party invitations. I'm soaking up every bit I have with her before she sets off to college.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Japan Trip :: Tokyo

My family and I just came back from an incredible trip to Japan. We've been planning this trip for years. It was a bucket list destination for sure. I wanted share our travel journey just in case you're thinking about visiting Japan in the near future. We arrived to Haneda airport at 5:00 p.m. after 21 hours of travel from Ohio (traveled with Delta). 

What to do prior to the trip: 
Create an account and register your information at Visit Japan Web prior to the trip. You will be asked to submit your passports and vaccination cards. It may take a few hours before it's verified. You'll have the option to fill out paper customs and immigration forms on the plane but I highly suggest you do this prior to your arrival. Make sure you take a screenshot of the QR code for each (custom, immigration and vaccination). The process will be a lot faster, easier and smoother. Also, your passport must be valid for another six months before you depart for international travel. Customs and immigration was very fast and easy with the pre-register QR code system. Lines were moving fast. Highly recommend you fill out immigration information prior to landing and get a QR code. After immigration, we went to a self-service station to scan our declaration QR codes and passports. Once that's done, we walked to electronic customs gate. They scanned our faces and then we completely entered Japan. The entire process took about 30 minutes and was painless. 

What to get at the airport: 
  • You can get a Japan wireless pocket Wi-Fi for $4 per day and can be shared between multiple devices. I decided to get the $10 international pass offered through AT&T to connect to local data, text and calls. It worked fantastic. I was able to talk to my parents every day and the sound was super clear. No issues whatsoever. Plus, free and reliable Wi-Fi is everywhere in Japan so you don't need to have a pocket Wi-Fi if you don't want to. Make sure you download the Google Translate app prior to the trip. It's super helpful. We used it to translate everything from menus to various controls at our hotels and communicate with the locals. 
  • You can also pick up a Suica/Pasmo card at the airport. They are prepaid e-money card for moving around and shopping. Essential, Suica and Pasmo are the same. The main difference between them is that they are managed by different companies. We used it for everything from subways to snacks to souvenirs. The card can be purchased before heading to Japan. We rarely had to use cash except paying for food vendors here and there. If you purchase a Suica card at the airport, you can save on the activation fee (500 JPY - $4). Each person must have his/her own card. The card is reloadable at any train station. 
Signage in English is clear for taxi and train stations. We took a cab from Haneda airport to our apartment hotel in Ueno (Tokyo's East side). The fare was $90 vs. train ($3/pp) vs. bus ($10/pp). Alternatively, we could take a train from Haneda to Ueno station which is way cheaper but after traveling for 21 hours, I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of figuring out public transportations. Tip: The back doors of a taxi are automatic. No need to touch the handles =) Everyone was super tired. Check in was a breeze. 

Where we stayed: When travel outside of the US, I prefer not to stay in well-known hotel chains. We stayed at Mimaru Tokyo Ueno East for 2 nights. Mimaru apartment hotels are suitable for family who prefer larger room with service apartment amenities. Room set up was perfect for a family of 4 (one king size bed and 2 bunk beds). Conveniently located 5 minutes away from Ueno station. It's super clean and quiet. My personal preference is a softer mattress. Paid $383 for 2 nights. Mimaru has locations in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. We got to the hotel around 8:00 p.m. 

While my family was sleeping, I ventured out to get something to eat. Successfully got my first meal without speaking a word. I ordered my meal using a touch screen kiosk. Individual seating is separated by dividers so you don't have to interact with the person next to you if you don't want to. It's the ultimate experience for introverts like me. I paid $5 for my first meal and it was excellent. Stopped by a 7-Eleven convenience store to grab some snacks and water bottles. Then it was time to call it a night.

After 24 hours of being jet lagged, we were slowly getting back to normal. The first stop was the Ghibli Museum. Tickets were purchased in advance. They have to be purchased in advance. No reservation or ticket purchase can be made at the museum. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. (JST) on the 10th of each month for the following month. The cost is JPY 1,000 ($7.50) for an adult ticket. Ech ticket has a timed entry. There is lots to see since everything has so much details. Photographs are not allowed inside the museum. We spent 2 hours there. All in all, it was a fun experience. If you're not into animations, I'd say skip it. The museum is right next to Inokashira Park. Great spot for cherry blossom viewing! 

Next stop:  Shibuya Crossing. We took the train to Harajuku District - Shibuya, Tokyo to experience Shibuya Crossing. It was amazing to see the sheer number of people crossing the street at once. The iconic Shibuya Crossing is a must-visit destination in Tokyo. I have to say it's much smaller than I imagined. 

Next stop: Takeshita Street in Harajuku (Teens fashion district). The street is lined with fun/wacky/unique shops. It was super crowded. The little one has been dreaming about this giant cotton candy for months. We got her one ($10). Since eating while walking is a big no-no for most Japanese, we had to finish this ginormous cotton candy before leaving the shop. Let's just say, I could do without cotton candy for the rest of my life =) 

Next stop: Tsukiji Fish Market. Unfortunately, it was raining non-stop for the first 3 days of our trip. We had to modify our plan due to the heavy rain. Visited the Tsukiji Market but stalls and shops were closed early due to heavy rain. Tsukiji wholesale fish market has moved to Toyosu. You won't be able experience the tuna auction. Only the outer ring of small eateries and shopping. You can still try incredible food here. 

Next stop: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building - Free attraction. Since the weather was less than ideal, this was the best thing we could experience. Observation decks provide good panoramic views of Tokyo and beyond. On a clear day, famous landmarks such as Mt. Fuji, the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine and the Tokyo Dome can be seen from the observatories. As you can tell in these photos, I saw NOTHING. It was a very dreary day. 

Next stop: Enoshima Island. The island sports a series of interesting shrines that are nestled in the serene beauty of the wooded island. It's full of interesting places, good food and beautiful temples! It took about an hour and a half to get there from Tokyo by train and then a long walk across a land bridge to get to the island but it’s so beautiful. Once you make it to the island there’s a main Street with all kinds of food stalls. I got to try the famous squid paper!

Tokyo is super crowded especially during the Sakura season. Getting around will take more time than you think. We were moving from one train station to next, subways and buses. Get a hotel that is nearest to a station is highly recommended. Prioritize the things you want to do each day and be ok with not getting to everything. These attractions were on the list but we couldn't get to due to the heavy rain.
• Senso-ji Temple: It is the oldest temple in Tokyo 
• Sumida River 
• Imperial Palace 

Next destination: Hakone

Sunday, March 5, 2023

What I wore to the Carrie Underwood concert

My girl friend and I went to the Carrie Underwood concert last night and we had so much fun. This is what I wore. I don't have too many pieces in my closet that scream "country". I did the best I could with what I had. My denim jacket and boots are almost 10 years old. Luckily, my friend got me a cowboy hat and it helped completing my outfit =). Regarding the concert, all I can say is wow. Carrie puts on an awesome show. Her voice is amazing and so powerful. Outfit details: Nashville t-shirt | H&M denim jacket | Colehaan boots | Similar suede skirt | Cowboy hat *available in 12 colors*

Thursday, March 2, 2023

What my husband and I got for Christmas

Finally sharing with you my annual "What I Got For Christmas". This post is obviously very late since we're already in March but better late than never. I didn't go crazy this year for 2 reasons: #1: Nothing really catches my eye when it comes to luxury goods. I'm very contented, satisfied and happy with what I have in my closet. I don't buy just to buy anymore. Money can be used towards long-term goals #2: We're going to Japan in 20 days! I want to save $$ and purchase something special there. I will share what I have in mind in a separate post. With that being said, I wanted to share a few things I got last Christmas.
My husband got me this Canon RF 24-105mm lens for Christmas. As mentioned in this post, I upgraded my camera to the Canon EOS 6D Mark II and purchased the EF 85mm lens to go with it. While I love the 85mm lens, it serves a very specific purpose. Since we're going to Japan, I'd like to take one all-around lens with me. After doing some research, he decided to go with the Canon RF 24-105mm lens. I am so excited to have this new lens to play with.

The girls got me this Nest candle set. I actually asked for this last year but it was completely sold out. They couldn't get it for me. I believe they found the last set in-store at Saks. I love candles in general and this holiday set smells divine

I've been looking for a wristlet for quite some time. My Chanel WOC is great for special occasions but I wanted something that I can loop round my wrist. This Saint Laurent clutch is so beautiful. I've always been a fan of Saint Laurent. The color is called which I believe "Vintage Peach" is a new color.

That's what I got for Christmas. I always wanted to share what I got for my husband for Christmas because it's very special. I finally upgraded his wedding band after 14 years of being marriage. It was a complete surprise when he opened it.  His reaction was priceless. Courtney, my husband and I have the matching rings. I probably will get Madelyn hers when she turns 16 just like I did for Courtney.Without a doubt, our rings hold great sentimental value.

Friday, February 3, 2023

My favorite jeans at the moment

A couple of months ago, I decided to donate all my skinny jeans because I haven't worn them for a very long time. I bought these high rise relaxed jeans and fell in love with the silhouette. This is all I wear at the moment. These jeans are the absolute best. I am wearing a size 24/00 short and they fit great. No waist gap and the length is perfect (I am 5'2"). They're on major sale today (use code DENIMAF to get an extra 15% off). I thought I'd let you know just in case you wanted to give them a try. They are available in 19 shades!! I have the "Oat" and "Light". I am going to pick up another wash. Outfit details: A&F jeans *size 00S* | Bodysuit | Gucci sneakerGucci beltSeychelles loafers

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

First post of 2023!

{Outfit details: Jumpsuit *run small* | Chanel 19 bag
Hello 2023! Can't believe another year has come and passed. I hope you achieved your goals in 2022. The New Year is a wonderful opportunity to reset and refocus. Hubby and I went out for an early NYE dinner last night. We wanted to check out a new spot in town and let me tell you, it was amazing. If you're in Columbus, I'd highly suggest Mandrake Rooftop. The food was amazing. We had a 5-course NYE meal. Super cool atmosphere. Not to mention, the views of the Columbus skyline at night is just simply amazing. I plan to go back to try their regular menu. Then we went home to cheer on the Buckeyes. We fought to the very end but unfortunately, we lost right at the ball drop.

2022 was altogether an amazing year. My family and I have a lot to be thankful for. A couple of highlights from 2022 that I'd like to share:

  1. Courtney is 9 for 9 with college acceptances so far. We're still waiting on Boston University and Case Western Reserve University.  Last year was all about the college application process. A lot of time was spent on researching, filling out CSS and FAFSA, college touring. We finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. To say I'm proud is an understatement!!! She has a lot of options to choose from. I'll share more details in a separate post. 
  2. Building a wonderful friendship. I met this amazing human at the end of 2021 in such an unconventional way and we just clicked. We share the same values, same family dynamics, our kids are roughly the same age, same hobbies and interests. We are just simply enjoying each other's company. We are slowing building our friendship and had so many fun get-togethers in 2022. I definitely see more trips in the future. I love how easy going and drama free our friendship is. It's exactly what I wanted. We never try to one-up one another. I am so grateful for how positive and fun she is. Not to mention she has a killer handbag collection. I don't have too many friends but the ones I do have are amazing people.

{Las Vegas - March 2022}
{Grand Canyon - March 2022}
{Seven Springs Mountain - December 2022}

What I set out for 2022:

  • Home improvements: We planned to get new flooring for the entire house and we did. I am so in love with the new carpet (you can see it here). Yes, I prefer carpet over hardwood floors. Carpet gives a sense of peace and cozy to any home. We decided to go with Shaw premium Berber carpet and I couldn't be happier. It feels like heaven under the feet. We also replaced the old fireplace door with a custom made one. The new door now fit the fireplace perfectly. With that, our family room is finished.
  • Financial goals: Thankfully, we were able to hit our financial goals despite the fact that the stock market definitely struggled in 2022. The first six months of 2022 were the worst the stock market has had in more than 40 years. 2023 still might not be a good year for the stock market. We are meeting with our personal financial advisor in the next couple of weeks to go over some realistic numbers for 2023.
  • Travel: We were able to make 3 trips last year. First trip out West to explore some of the iconic National Parks. We were able to see  Zion National Park, made it to the top (and down) of Angels Landing alive =), witnessed the beauty of the Grand Canyon. Pictures cannot do this National Parks justice. Unbelievably beautiful. Next is our summer vacation friends and family (part 1 and part 2). It was so much fun. We are already talking about taking another cruise this year. A couple of days before Christmas, we took the girls to Sevens Spring ski resort for our annual ski trip. Courtney and Madelyn can ski pretty well at this point. They had the best time hitting the slopes by themselves. Even though we had to cancel the trip to London, we didn't feel like we were missing out on anything. There is always next time! We also took a bunch of weekend trips to visit colleges. More on that in a later post.
  • The big goal that we set for last year was owning a vacation/second home. It did not happen for obvious reasons. Housing market remains unstable. We had a few considerations but decided to hold off just a little while longer.

Plans for 2023:

  • We're going to Japan for Spring break!!! This trip has been on my bucket list for years and it's finally happening. You don't even know how excited I am. We're all set! Flights, accommodations, activities are all booked. I just simple cannot wait!
  • There won't be any home improvements this year. We decided to save $$ and will finish our basement in 2024. It's going to be a big project.
  • College decision is going to impact our financial numbers
  • My husband is getting his dream car for his 50th milestone birthday! It's something that we've been planning for a couple of years now. I promised that I won't influence his decisions lol Believe it or not, I am the realist and he's the dreamer when it comes to our marriage. I see everything for what it is. Luxury cars lose value. That's a fact. I always try to talk him out of paying a massive price for a car. Luxury cars depreciate faster than other cars. For his 50th birthday, I told him he can pick whatever he likes within a certain price range. That's going to be our big purchase for 2023.

I say this all the time but I truly am grateful for everything (my loving family, my amazing friends, our career, our health). Excited for everything 2023 will be. Wishing you a year filled with love, happiness and success.